Music has been the largest part of my soul since childhood, listening to my mom play guitar or spin a wide assortment of records on the old console. I picked up the guitar around 7th grade and have played in various bands since then. There is really no other feeling than jamming with some other players that are getting into the moment.
11/13/10 - Jason Bonham clearly reveres his late father as evidenced throughout his show at The Plaza Theatre in Orlando by candid family video footage and often emotional discourse with the audience. John Bonham left some large shoes to fill as one of the very best rock drummers, but his son is more interested in promoting the music and legacy of Bonzo & Led Zeppelin than proving his own drumming merit, which is actually mighty fine. He has assembled a Zep “tribute band” with some real cred, and they had the small venue on its feet much of the night with talented and heartfelt playing. Hardcore Zeppelin fans – every one of them!
The night started off less than auspiciously when Susie and I discovered there was no Row B – the first row of temporary seating started at C (new seating by February)! As the staff wandered around looking for more chairs we noticed that the crowd ran the gamut from a few grade school kids to many folks older than me (if you can believe that), most wearing LZ tee shirts. When 2 rows were added to the front, the people in front of us were leaning on the stage, with the small EV center-stage speakers 12” away!
What better way to start than with Rock and Roll? (Except maybe Immigrant Song, which they skipped). Singer James Dylan looks more like Daughtry but sounds like Plant, with great range and inflection, playing a duct-taped Ovation guitar on some of the tunes. Bassist Michael Devin ran his vintage Jazz Basses through two Ampeg stacks directly in front of us, drowning out everything else for the first set as he banged out John Paul Jones licks. Susie thought he was “cute as a button”
Guitarist Tony Catania kinda looks like a younger Jimmy Page and is an excellent musician, nailing every part with grace and having fun at the same time. He had an arsenal of guitars running through a Marshall JCM 900 and an Orange. His favs were a sunburst Les Paul and a 3 pickup LP Black Beauty with a Bigsby. He also had an acoustic mounted on a stand so he could play it without removing the electric for rapid switching back and forth, a Fender 12 string, Danelectro (for Kashmir) and of course the requisite dual-neck SG for Stairway to Heaven. Rounding out the lineup was the talented and smiling (and skinny) Stephan LeBlanc who filled in with keys, guitar and steel, providing a much fuller sound when the audio engineers gave him any volume.
Well, I can’t even remember all the songs, but they did my favorite anthems: How Many More Times, Dazed & Confused, and of course Stairway to Heaven, all played to perfection. Tony did a fine job with the violin bow and EchoPlex. When they did Moby Dick, John Bonham’s trademark drum solo song, we had father and son playing with Bonzo up on the huge screen at back of stage, interspersed with live video of the band.
Jason talked to us some more saying “this next song sucked in practice, so we added this”, and next thing was a recording of John Bonham playing the opening beats to When the Levee Breaks. Tony played slide on the Fender 12 and Stephan played steel guitar, while Michael added some harmonica. Very powerful!!! Tony was ripping on one of my favorite blues by LZ – Since I've Been Loving You. Killer! Other notable tunes were the Ocean, Black Dog, Good Times, Bad Times, Babe I’m Gonna Leave You and many more.
There was some hilarious home video of a young (7 or 8?) Jason playing the drums, then dancing in front of the drum set while Mom & Dad watched laughing. It really was up close and personal, making me think many times of another young man honoring his father’s music in much the same way – Dweezil Zappa. Recreating it for old farts while introducing it to younger generations that never saw the original band.
The band finished up with a powerful version of Kashmir getting everyone on their feet. The light show was worthy of a Fillmore West performance and the sound was great. They walked off for the obligatory encore cue. The theramin was still sitting unused on Tony’s amp, so I knew what was next. How else to finish off the show than Whole Lotta Love! And there was – all around.
11/05/09 - Joe Bonamassa - The Plaza Theatre was sold out Thursday night as every musician and blues aficionado within 100 miles of Orlando came to see one of the finest electric blues players today. And we were not disappointed! Joe delivered a solid 2 hours, starting out with a slide solo on his double-neck Music Man guitar with the band joining in after a couple of minutes.
He played a variety of tunes from his new album Ballad of John Henry plus many others. His voice is well suited for the blues and his guitar playing is smooth or fierce - sparse or shredding - depending on the nature of the song. Joe has amazing passion and it really comes through his fingers with fantastic tone. Think Eric Johnson with a Les Paul.
He decided long ago that the British Invasion was his sound, and there was nary a single pickup in sight as he wielded a variety of Les Pauls, two Music Man SM and a Firebird. All those humbuckers piped into some pedals that fed a bank of 4 amps (Marshall Jubilee, Category 5, Carol Ann & Van Weelden Twinkleland) driving two 4 x12 cabs. Fiberglass baffles in front of the cabs kept the stage volume "reasonable", and the PA system was the best I'd heard at the Plaza.
Joe mentioned he just won the Breakthrough Artist Award, which he thought was rather ironic as he was celebrating 20 years of live performances next week! In the middle of the show he pulled out an acoustic and did some great solo flat picking, and again for the 1st encore. For the final encore, he strapped on a gorgeous Gibson Flying V and did a medley of JB, ZZ Top & Zeppelin that had everyone on their feet. Jazz and I were at the front of stage soaking it in. Wow. This is one guy you need to hear.