Always the quietly dignified member of the mighty Led Zeppelin, bassist-keyboardist-songwriter John Paul Jones is the one survivor of the influential quartet whose subsequent music projects have been every bit as challenging and creative as those of the celebrated band.
At the near-capacity House of Blues in Los Angeles on Friday, Jones and his crack two-man backing band played a stupendous two-set show of new instrumentals and past soundtrack material, with a few smartly reworked Led Zep nuggets thrown in, that proved once and for all who was the most underrated member of the group.
Switching between various configuration of bass guitar (10-string, 12-string), bass mandolin, organ and keyboards, and a double-pedal steel guitar, Jones gave the clamoring, mostly male audience a veritable clinic in rock ‘n’ roll soundscape composition in his first solo tour. Blues, classical, jazz and bluegrass were among the styles evident in the hypnotic and complex songs.
“It’s been a long time,” said the gentlemanly Jones after the evening’s first number, a delicious reference to lyrics from Zep’s classic song “Rock and Roll” that was appreciated by all in the house.
Pieces like the bluesy “Snake Eyes” and opener “Zooma” (the title track from Jones’ new independent album) were dizzying and thoughtful compositions, brilliantly executed by three musicians who often sounded like a group twice their size.
Kilt-clad Nick Beggs, formerly of 1980s band Kajagoogoo, played a guitarlike instrument that one taps instead of strumming, called a Chapman stick, and with it effectively combined characteristics of six-string and bass guitars to incredible effect, especially notable on the delicate “Smile of Your Shadow.”
“I’m going to take you back now” was all the attendees needed to hear before erupting into a loud greeting for an impressive first-set, wordless version of Zep’s “No Quarter,” one of four recast songs from Jones’ former band.
“When the Levee Breaks,” early in the second set, featured Jones on lap steel bass guitar, while the evening’s encore brought satisfying reborn takes on “Trampled Underfoot” and “Black Dog.”
Jones and band wrapped their 15-city U.S. tour Monday at Anaheim’s Sun Theatre. European and Japanese dates are scheduled, and a second U.S. itinerary is expected next year.