Heart with Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience

First Niagara Pavilion, Burgettstown, PA July 18, 2013


What better way is there to spend a Sunday evening than having a Led Zeppelin sandwich? At First Niagara Pavilion, Heart’s 2013 “Heartbreaker” tour featured the Wilson sisters bookended by a pair of Zep sets courtesy of Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience” Barring a long fantasized reunion, this tour has proven to be as close as you’ll get to the real thing .As Heart waited in the on deck circle, Bonham and Co. blew through an hour of Zep classics and obscure covers including Joan Baez’  “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You.” Bonham is as capable as his legendary father.  At one point, he called for a crowd shout of Bonzo! “I don’t think he can hear ya,” he said, “He must jammin’ with [Keith] Moon.”

Front man James Dylan came through loud and clear all night and sounds exactly like Plant. If you closed your eyes, you would not have known the difference as he tore through everything from ”Rock and Roll,” to “Whole Lotta Love” and the seven other classics in between. Due to time constraints, they signed off without doing “Stairway.”

Just because Heart is fronted by a pair of sisters, it is not your typical girl power band. Ann and Nancy Wilson are flat-out face melting Hall of Fame rockers. They came out like a C4 explosion with “Barracuda” and the high voltage assault rarely slowed to take a breath.  Ann’s signature is her ability to wail. At 63, her voice is as strong and operatic as ever. She sings lead on almost every song and it comes at price. She is a little short on nuance and usually opts for a full voice high decibel beat down. It’s what makes “Alone” one of the best performances in rock. After blowing through an 80’s mini set featuring “Magic Man” and “What About Love” Nancy finally showcased her silky pipes and acoustic prowess on the moving Dog and Butterfly” and the Elton John cover, “I Need You To Turn To.”She has a beautiful voice that is rarely showcased as a lead. When it is, she provides a pleasant respite from Ann’s bludgeoning. And by the way, she also plays a mean guitar.
After a short break, Ann returned on guitar while Nancy wielded a mandolin to join Bonham for an all-Led encore.

Ann and Dylan’s vocals blew up the six song encore. Tony Catania’s “Stairway to Heaven” solo was played with academic precision. Even vintage Page liked to freestyle a bit during the lengthy showcase, The exact live replication of those eerie, mysterious minutes  is all the more impactful since the song  has been associated with everything from devil worship to black magic.

The show was billed as a night of classic rock.” It really doesn’t get more classic than this.