Jason Bonham brings the thunder to the Casino Ballroom


Photo by Trevor Betty

Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Evening performs at the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom.

I’ve been listening to Led Zeppelin for as long as I can remember: my father introduced me to the band years and years ago and has grown to become my favorite band and a huge inspiration to me. Sadly, the group’s drummer, John Bonham, passed away in 1980 leaving behind a legacy and shoes very hard to fill. 

Bonham’s son Jason has kept the legacy of his father and the rock-and-roll supergroup alive with his band Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Evening or JBLZE. Bonham brought the evening to the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom April 15th and brought the heat to the beach. 

Unlike the day of the Journey concert, this was much less chaotic. We left for Hampton and went for food at Sea Ketch, leaving an hour or so to spare. 

After eating, we took a walk to view the sunset over the beach after seeing the line wrapped around the corner. That night was a full moon, and the pink/purple hue of the sky painted a colorful picture in my mind, one of many memories made that night.

When the line simmered down, we went up and through the security gates. Immediately walking in, we were greeted by a staircase with fog machines rolling, giving off a hazy mist over the ceiling. The venue is smaller making for a more intimate show and setting. 

Our seats were close to the stage, just one section away. We had corner seats which were much more convenient. Before the show started, I went to the merchandise stand and got a shirt and a signed pair of drumsticks and drumhead to display.

After waiting patiently, AC/DC’s hit song “For Those About to Rock (We Salute You))” blasted, sending fans into rock and roll mode. The lights dimmed and the shadows of the band appeared. Sounds similar to the intro of Led Zeppelin’s “In The Evening” were heard with timpani rolls and guitar drone effects. After the intro, the band stopped and all lights were off. Bonham tapped off on the hi-hat and the show was on.

The band opened with the Zeppelin classic “Immigrant Song.” Bonham’s guitarist, Jimmy Sakurai, (also known as Mr. Jimmy) blew the minds of everyone in attendance. Originally from Japan, his playing, charisma, and energy matched Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin’s guitarist) perfectly. 

After a brief pause, the band went into “Good Times, Bad Times,” the hit song off of Zeppelin’s first album. Bonham’s drums filled the room as his father’s drums did, even using a similar drum kit and cymbals. Sakurai flawlessly shredded the solo and outro. Lead singer James Dylan took on the role of Robert Plant with passion and personality.  

After the song ended, Bonham took the mic and greeted us all. “GOOD EVENING HAMPTON BEACH CASINO!” Bonham said with power. “Ohhh it has been too long! You know, when I saw the ticket sales, I was like oh yeah, it’s gonna be a good night tonight!”

The crowd screamed with intensity after every sentence showing enthusiasm and excitement. 

“My name’s Jason Bonham,” he said. “Welcome to JBLZE! We used to be an experience, now we’re a whole evening… so let’s go over the hills and far away.” Following that, Sakurai began the next song.

Throughout the night, the group performed through Zeppelin’s biggest hits with some deep cuts like “Ten Years Gone.” Bonham also took time in between songs to tell us memorable moments he had with his father, like a time in 1979 when he faked a stomach ache to go to Zeppelin’s rehearsal before the popular Knebworth Festival performance. His father was approached by a reporter who asked who was on the drum kit. The reporter was in awe when John said it was his boy, just 13 years old.

The floors of the ballroom felt as if they were thumping up and down as the show went on. The energy inside could be comparative to the show Led Zeppelin themselves put on in 1969. Virtually everybody was standing up, bopping their heads, dancing along to the music, 

The evening closed with “Whole Lotta Love” and “Rock and Roll,” sending fans into a frenzy. The drum solo at the end sent everyone back to 1973, closely echoing the sound and intensity of his father.

For me, it was an evening I will never forget. I may never get to see Led Zeppelin live, but seeing Jason Bonham and Jimmy Sakurai live is close enough. Along with Journey, Led Zeppelin was another band that I grew up listening to, thanks to my father. The memories made will last a lifetime.

Below are photos from the concert.