Passing up a Brian Wilson show is a pretty drastic move, especially when it's the closer one to town, but there were these other, unrelated Wilsons and a heavy Zeppelin factor.
You see, I was one of those devastated teenagers with worthless Led Zeppelin tickets -- twice -- when the band canceled (for horribly tragic reasons) in 1977 and '80. The closest I got to Zeppelin was Page-Plant with the orchestra at the arena in '95.
Although Jimmy Page has been here with other bands and Robert Plant solo, Sunday night's show at the First Niagara Pavilion with Heart and Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Experience figured to be one of the closer available approximations of the real thing.
Essentially, this was a pair of Zep sets wrapped around Heart -- not a bad night of classic rock.
Generally, I wouldn't cross the street to see a tribute band but this Led Zeppelin Experience has a crucial and heartfelt link to the original in Son of Bonzo. He is dead-on perfect with his late father, John Bonham's parts, and he isn't even he focus of the band which is fronted by James Dylan, who looks like Chris Daughtry and IS Robert Plant if you close your eyes. Tony Catania is no slouch as Page.
The nine-song set captured Zeppelin to a T whether blasting through "Rock and Roll" and "Black Dog," dipping into the sludge of "When the Levee Breaks" or navigating the tricky time signatures of " Nobody's Fault But Mine. " Bonham called for a crowd shout of Bonzo! "I don't think he can hear ya," he said, "He must jammin' with [Keith] Moon."
After a long absence, this was the third Heart show here in the last four years, so it was typical Heart-- Ann and Nancy Wilson were magnificent. They went right for the jugular coming out with "Barracuda," Nancy, in a Stevie Nicks-like black dress, attacking one of the great rock riffs of all time with her blond hair flying.
Ann, four years older at 63, sounds miraculously like her younger self, so you wanna wrap up the crystal when she goes for the high notes.
They have a third weapon in young guitarist Craig Bartock, who nailed the solos, the best being the thrilling one on "Magic Man."
Heart rocked hard through "Heartless" and "Even it Up" and hit a slower gear on "What About Love" and "These Dreams." The haunting "Mistral Wind" and driving "Dear America," dedicated to their Marine Corps father, hung right in there with the greatest hits. Give Ann credit for not backing away from "Alone," a naked vocal that calls for operatic heights. The set-closing "Crazy on You," with Heart's killer riff No. 2 and Ann's most unleashed vocal, was well worth the temporary high end hearing loss.
They opened the six-song "Zeppelin Section" stepping out with Ann on guitar and Nancy on mandolin for a mesmerizing "Battle of Evermore." "The Rain Song," with Bonham and Catania back on stage, was delicate and beautiful, as it turns out that Ann does a perfect Plant too.
They decibels started going to ear-bleeding levels when they struck the hammer of the gods on "The Immigrant Song" and an epic, emotional "Kashmir." Of course, they can only end with a proud "Stairway to Heaven" that was faithful to the original instrumentally and came loaded with extra vocal power.
"Music... music it feeds our souls," Ann said at one point. This night was one for heart and soul and Led.
email@example.com; 412-263-2576. First Published July 22, 2013 4:45 AM