Led Zeppelin's first four albums are pillars of any rock music collection. Drummer Jason Bonham, son of the late Zeppelin drummer John Bonham, will make these works come to life when he pays tribute to the original foursome with his Led Zeppelin Experience at the NYCB Theatre at Westbury, highlighting "Led Zeppelin I" and "II" Wednesday night and "Led Zeppelin III" and "IV" Thursday night.
Bonham, 48, spoke with Newsday about preserving his father's legacy, playing in the band with vocalist Robert Plant, guitarist Jimmy Page and bassist John Paul Jones at London's O2 Arena in 2007, and why they never went on tour.
Is it intense having a dad who is a legend in the field you work in?
Sometimes I feel like a jealous sibling when every drummer I speak to is like, "Your dad's my idol," and I'm like, "No, he's my idol!" What's even more annoying is that Dave Grohl looks more like him than I do. It took a long time to know him other than being "Dad." I never really saw "Bonzo" at home; I just heard about him. To see him in this musician's light was important. Alcohol clouded my vision when I was younger, but I got a chance to enjoy it all again being sober. My life changed, and doors opened for me.
Was it intimidating playing in your dad's seat behind Page, Plant and Jones?
It was a lot of pressure at first right up to the last few days of rehearsals for the O2 show. Somebody said, "Relax . . . be Jason, and John will come naturally." Those were the best words anyone has ever said to me. I was too wrapped up in playing these identical fills when Dad was really about the bombastic surprise.
How would you compare your styles?
I hear black and white when I listen to us both. I'm too much of a critic. It's like what Johnny Depp says: "I don't know what any of my movies are like. You would have to ask my kids." I get it. You become too close to it.
What did the O2 experience mean to you?
That show was the highlight of my career as a player. But this time I was no longer a kid hanging around. I was a 40-year-old guy getting to really know them over the course of six weeks. It was a really nice experience, but it was sad when it all stopped. It was pretty devastating.
How come it didn't go further?
No one ever talked about it, but there was a feeling that with the amount of work that went into the O2 show, something was going to happen. But it was not up to me. What Robert [Plant] said was a valid point: "To me, we just needed to do one more great show." We really did do it. It ended with a very professional, tight, amazing performance from everybody.
Didn't you, Page and Jones audition singers to move forward?
There was a lot of speculation as to what was going to happen. But it got pretty sour. We were going to keep playing, not as Led Zeppelin but as another project. We felt good about playing with each other, but it was daunted by constant headlines in the newspaper about replacing Led Zeppelin's singer.
What else are you working on?
I'm on tour with Sammy Hagar at the moment and we are going to do more shows in June. I've been asked to be part of a drum orchestra for the next "Superman" movie. I'm a lucky guy because I've gotten to play with amazing musicians -- Sammy Hagar, Michael Anthony, Ozzy Osbourne, Slash, Ronnie Wood and Fergie. I won a Grammy. My father should have won 100 Grammys, yet he didn't even get one.
What are Page, Plant and Jones' thoughts on your Zeppelin show?
Robert seemed into it. He said, "I can't believe the amount of passion you have about the show." I'm sure they've seen it on YouTube. They don't seem to dislike it. If they said, "We don't think you should be doing it," then I'd stop it because I trust their judgment.
How will the second-night set list be different?
There will be about five key repeats that I feel always should be in a show. But we've been working on more obscure songs like "We're Gonna Groove," "Traveling Riverside Blues" and stuff from "In Through the Out Door." The show is over three hours long.
Is it true that Led Zeppelin reunited at your wedding in 1990?
Yeah, and not many people knew about it. We did four songs -- "Bring It On Home," "Sick Again," "Rock & Roll" and one other. I have a video, but it will never be shown. It was a special moment. I didn't even ask them to do it. They just brought their instruments.
WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, NYCB Theatre at Westbury
INFO $49.50-$69.50 per night, $75 two-day pass; 800-745-3000, livenation.com
Huntington guitarist backs Bonham
Delivering Jimmy Page's legendary guitar riffs in Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Experience is Tony Catania of Huntington. They met through mutual friends in 1988, when Bonham was playing drums during Page's "Outrider" solo tour. The pair clicked and began working together during the mid-'90s in the Jason Bonham Band.
Catania came from a musical family as his father, Chuck Catania, was a professional session guitarist who played on recordings for The Supremes and Bobby Darin.
"There was a lot of music around the house from classical to jazz," Catania says. "I started playing about age 8 or 9. My father taught me to read music, then I took it from there on my own."
With his band, Rising Sun, Catania gigged at L.I. haunts like My Father's Place in Roslyn, Sundance in Bay Shore and Shooters in Huntington. When the band broke up in 1993, he hooked up with Bonham.
"We are not just hacking through some Zeppelin tunes. The show is about Jason's relationship with his father," Catania says. "There's a point where he's actually jamming with his dad. It's a showstopper and people get emotional about it."