Jason Bonham thinks of his late father, Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham, in the fondest of ways.
He recalls playing the instrumental song “Moby Dick” with him, and his strong father-son bond. But, unlike others who have lost their dads, Bonham has the ability to share his memories on the road with Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience, which comes to the Celebrity Theatre in Phoenix on Friday, May 13. It was originally intended to be one tour in 2010, but it has expanded to a more frequent event.
“After the first tour, it took on its own life, really,” Bonham says.
The two-hour show homage to the elder Bonham features Led Zeppelin “hits”—Bonham said there were no hits, per se—and occasional deep cuts and B-sides. Bonham also rolls film footage of his father and his family.
“The setlist is the hardest thing to decide,” he says. “We actually reach out on social media and ask fans, ‘What would you like to hear on this tour?’
“But then I have to remember there are certain people who haven’t seen the show before. I have to make sure the key songs are represented. As much as Led Zeppelin didn’t have hit single, let’s say, there are certain anthems like the ‘Whole Lotta Loves’ of the world, ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll,’ ‘Stairway to Heaven’ and ‘Kashmir.’ I always find that those are songs that have to be in the show.”
That said, he loves the variety his shows offer, including acoustic numbers or deep tracks.
“That, to me, keeps it fresh for us,” adds Bonham, 49. “We like to change it up a bit. Some of the songs have never been played live.”
Bonham became intimately acquainted with the songs when he played the O2 Arena in London with Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and John Paul Jones for a tribute show. That’s when he became a fan.
“Previously, I took the songs for granted because my dad was a drummer,” he explains. “I was able to get myself out of that situation, listen to it again and appreciate the music. It started out with an appreciation for my dad, and then I became appreciative of every one of them and the band, itself, for what it did for music.”
Bonham is quick to add, however, that he was “always a fan, but not like Jimmy said in 2007, ‘the super fan.’
“When I was 13 The Police were the big thing, and Sting. I dyed my hair blond and the whole thing. It wasn’t until dad was taken away from all of us that I started listening to music in a whole other light.”
Bonham likes to mess with interviewers and fans when it comes to Led Zeppelin. When he describes his plans for the next year, he is vague about his projects, which could lead some to think that they’re about Led Zeppelin.
“There has been talk of some other things,” says Bonham, who plays drums for Sammy Hagar’s The Circle as well as Phil Collins.
“Once I know more details, I can let you know. But if everyone’s schedule work out, we could do it. That project shall remain nameless and I’ll tell you this—it’s not Led Zeppelin.”
IF YOU GO
What: Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience
When: 8 p.m. Friday, May 13
Where: Celebrity Theatre, 440 N. 32nd St., Phoenix
Cost: $39 to $79
Information: 602-267-1600, celebritytheatre.com