Story by James West, The-Rocker.com

Photos by Danette West, TheRockerChic.com

August 1, 2018 - Irvine CA

In hindsight now I can see why they teamed up Foreigner, Whitesnake, and John Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience on the same bill for what turned out to be a very successful tour this year.

 

My first thought after The Rocker Chic ordered the cool 20 dollar tickets for Five Point Amphitheater in Irvine was What The Hell? Why would you put a 70’s powerhouse hard rock and ballad band like Foreigner together with an 80’s powerhouse heavy metal and sometimes ballad band like Whitesnake?

 

Except for maybe a few ballads the bands don’t share a similar sound or fanbase at

all.  And Jason Bonham? What was he doing tagging along?  But it all eventually made perfect musical sense!

Spawn of John Delivers!

The one thing about Five Point Amphitheater is they don’t mess around.  When it’s 7 o’clock, it’s time to rock!  Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience promptly launched into Immigrant Song and didn’t let up until the Land Of Ice And Snow was thoroughly melted by blistering guitar licks from Tony Catania, monster bass riffs from Dorian Heartsong, killer keyboards and guitars from Alex Howland, Plant-ish vocals from singer James Dylan, and of course, the thunderous drumming from the man himself Jason Bonham!

But I must be honest about this band:  I really was reluctant to hear Jason’s band as I’ve heard nothing but sacrilegious comments about him and his “tribute” band performing “in honor” of his late father

Jason Bonham. Most everyone was calling it a cash-grab of some sort meant to tarnish the band and his father’s legacy.  But I can tell you now from personal experience – THIS IS DEFINITELY NOT THE CASE!

I was emotionally moved by Jason’s performance and sincere dedication to doing the songs justice and in the true spirit of what Led Zeppelin stood for- Great Music and Great Times!  While NO band could ever match the chemistry and artistry that the original Zeppelin had, the ensemble that Jason has put together sounded tight, groovy, and generally inspired by the songs themselves. At several points during the show Jason took to the microphone to thank his dad and Zeppelin members for his great life and great musical upbringing.  No matter how many shows this band has played the sincerity still shined through as Jason raised his phone with light on up to the heavens during Stairway in honor of his beloved father.  It was a great performance by an exceptional drummer in his own right, Mr. Jason Bonham!  By the end of the set most of the crowd had arrived and were having a great time singing along to the Zep classics.  This band definitely got the crowd in the mood and ready for more rock!

Whitesnake Over-Amped!

I was impressed by the fantastic sound coming from the stage by the opening act, and now I couldn’t wait for another one of my favorite bands Whitesnake to take the stage.  The Rocker Chic and I had seen them live at nearby Pala Casino back in 2015 as part of their Purple Tour and were both blown away.

 

I don’t know what the hell happened to the sound on stage but it sounded like over-amped everything coming out of tiny speakers; the stage sound was horrible, and it didn’t get much better as the performance went along.  I know this band packs a lot of power- you have to with such great guitarists like Reb Beach and

Joel Hoekstra along with the legends that are both drummer Tommy Aldridge and singer extraordinaire David Coverdale.  Of course maybe being up in the 20-dollar seats didn’t get the opportune sound quality either, but Jason’s band sounded just fine.

Also, this was the end of a long tour and David’s voice was almost shot for most of the performance, but he did do a great job during the ballads Is This Love and Here I Go Again.  Even at 66 years of age David can still wow a crowd though, and all eyes were on his every move.  I was immediately impressed by how well Joel Hoekstra is fitting in with the band now and finding his groove.  Joel delivered a great guitar performance and some the best guitar posturing I’ve seen (cool ass photos!). Tommy Aldridge was awesome as usual and

pummeled the hell out of the drum kit with sticks and his bare hands!  Of course my favorite part of Whitesnake is the same as my favorite part of Winger- Reb Beach!  As the bands director Reb stayed in the shadows for most of the show but there were moments for him to shine also, and I never get tired of hearing his amazing fretboard gymnastics!

Overall, visually Whitesnake was in top form, but sonically, the band was a bit of a letdown that night.   The rest of the crowd didn’t seem to mind though as they looked thoroughly entertained by David Coverdale and company. Whereas Jason Bonham got the crowd into the mood, Whitesnake got them amped up, and now it was time for to what Foreigner could bring to the table…

Jukebox Heroes Dominate!

I admit I was still a bit pissed off by Foreigner from the last time they rolled into town at Valley Center Casino in 2015.  That was the first time I saw the band, and everything was advertised with Mick Jones on the posters, shirts, program, etc… and as the only original member of the band it made it worthwhile to spend the money to see a legend perform even with the other member replacements.  I don’t mean to knock Kelly Hansen (A great voice and talent) and

especially Jeff Pilson (I’m a huge Dokken fan), but I’m old school and want to see the old school performers even if they can’t perform as well as their new school replacements. Anyway, Jones was a no-show back in 2015 and I had a feeling it was going to happen again this year.

Foreigner hit the stage with an absolutely beautiful lighting truss system and an incredible sound system that immediately made up for Whitesnake’s misgivings.  Kelly and company were in top form, the same as they were in 2015, and started down the same path of delivering the bands' hits to perfection.  As much as I enjoyed the start of the elaborate show I was still feeling a bit letdown by no Mick Jones again.

Six songs in and still no Mick.  The Rocker Chic made me feel better by reminding me that Kelly Hansen has been with the band just as

long as Lou had been with them the first time.  I was just starting to come to terms again with the situation with telling myself, “ C’mon James, Mick had complications from heart surgery, and he doesn’t NEED to perform, he’s earned his rest!”  Then a late arrival arrived to the stage…

Songwriting Hall Of Famer Arrives!

“Sorry, but I have seemed to have missed the bus!” Jones announced to thundering applause.  From that moment on this Foreigner performance got elevated from great to awesome as the band then launched into Feels Like The First Time with Mick leading the way.  He didn’t miss a riff or lyric and delivered the goods like it was his first time.  A personal highlight for me was when he played and sang Starrider, one of my favs from the first album.

There were more surprises in store as Kelly took to a high-rise in the crowd to sing Juke Box Hero and even former member Jason Bonham joined in on the finale Hot Blooded.  This time Foreigner made amends and delivered an incredible performance with leader and Songwriter Hall Of Famer Mick

Jones at the helm. The only thing missing… Lou Gramm of course, but they’re even bringing him and the rest of the original band back for a Then and Now type show coming back into town in a couple of months!  Get your tickets now!  So, to go back to my original thought of the evening, why these three bands?  It’s simple but effective: Zeppelin gets them out of their seats, Whitesnake gets them screaming, and Foreigner gets them Feeling Like it’s The First Time!

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