Event Reviews
Gov’t Mule

Gov’t Mule

with Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Evening

Red Rocks Amphitheatre • Morrison, Colorado • August 7, 2023

The only thing better than one concert at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, Colorado, is back-to-back concerts at the iconic mountain venue. That is exactly what I got on my bucket-list trip, and I could not have been happier. On August 6, Joe Bonamassa played to a sold-out, rain-drenched, blues-loving crowd who treasured every moment despite the weather. As if this wasn’t enough, Warren Haynes sat in. (Read my Ink 19 review here.) Haynes was in town with his band, Gov’t Mule, to electrify Red Rocks the next night with Dark Side of The Mule along with supporting act, Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Evening. (Bonamassa also mentioned at his show that Bonham was in the house, although he did not perform). As a huge fan of both Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, the fact that I was about to experience THESE musicians doing THAT music at THIS venue was mind-blowing, but here I was, and I was SO ready.

Red Rocks Amphitheatre crowd
Michelle Wilson
Red Rocks Amphitheatre crowd

With daylight still in full force, Jason Bonham and his band bounded onto the mountain stage at 7 pm as “In The Light” wailed through the air. After settling in behind the drum kit, Bonham immediately raised his cell phone to grab a capture of the enthralled crowd. His stellar band features James Dylan (“Robert Plant” vocals/guitar), Akio “Jimmy” Sakurai (“Jimmy Page” guitar), Dorian Heartsong (“John Paul Jones” bass), Alex Howland (keys/guitar/mandolin/vocals), and of course, Bonham himself (also on backing vocals) masterfully filling the shoes of his late, great father, drummer John Bonham. While they didn’t go deep, they certainly went big. The one-hour aural seduction of Zep favs kept the concertgoers on their feet, dancing and singing along with every song. Bonham mouthed the words and gestured to the audience while banging the skins as his father once had, as Dylan belted out the powerhouse Plant notes and strutted across the stage. Heartsong’s fluid basslines kept it all flowing, and Sakurai’s uncanny resemblance to Page both physically and musically was astounding. He had all the moves down and did some strutting of his own, but he also added his own distinct flair with a très chic Ernie Ball Rainbow Polypro Guitar Strap attached to his doubleneck SG during “Thank You.” Incidentally, there is a limited-release documentary film being released about Sakurai. [(https://www.mrjimmymovie.com/)] In the leadup to “Thank You,” Bonham revealed his humility, gratitude and grace while paying tribute to his late father’s legacy.

Jason Bonham, Jason Dylan
Michelle Wilson
Jason Bonham, Jason Dylan

“He was Dad when he was home. He was Bonzo when he was in Led Zeppelin. So it was very difficult to see how big they had become. But I just know in my heart he is here smiling down on us tonight. This is the best way I know saying ‘thank you’ and this is it.”

James Dylan, Akio
Michelle Wilson
James Dylan, Akio “Jimmy” Sakurai
Dorian Heartsong
Michelle Wilson
Dorian Heartsong
Jason Bonham, James Dylan, Akio
Michelle Wilson
Jason Bonham, James Dylan, Akio “Jimmy” Sakurai
Alex Howland
Michelle Wilson
Alex Howland
Dorian Heartsong, Jason Bonham, James Dylan, Akio
Michelle Wilson
Dorian Heartsong, Jason Bonham, James Dylan, Akio “Jimmy” Sakurai
Alex Howland, Dorian Heartsong
Michelle Wilson
Alex Howland, Dorian Heartsong

Tracks from the vast LZ catalog included “In The Light,” “Good Times, Bad Times,” “The Ocean,” “Over the Hills and Far Away,” “Ramble On,” “What Is and What Should Never Be,” “Thank You,” “Immigrant Song,” “Black Dog,” “Misty Mountain Hop,” “Whole Lotta Love,” and “Rock and Roll.” It was a monumental set that was over too quickly. For those of us who never got to see Led Zeppelin live, this was a slice of heaven indeed.

Jason Bonham
Michelle Wilson
Jason Bonham

At 8:30 pm, the lights dimmed as Gov’t Mule and a svelte Warren Haynes commanded the stage. Backed by Matt Abts (drums, vocals), Danny Louis (keys, vocals) and newcomer Kevin Scott (replacing long-time bassist Jorgen Carlsson), the spectators cheered and clapped as the psychedelia was about to take flight. The former Allman Brothers Band guitarist and company kicked off the set with six originals, three from Mule’s freshly released 2023 album, Peace Like A River… including “Same As It Ever Was,” “After The Storm” and “Made My Peace.” The new and old blended seamlessly as the jam band rockers reached deep and pulled out “Time to Confess” (The Deep End, Volume 2, 2002) as well as “Unring the Bell” and “Endless Parade” (both off High & Mighty, 2006). Haynes’ searing guitar and gritty vocals were complemented by Scott’s impressive basslines, which hearkened back to original Mule bassist, the late Allen Woody. Scott only took over bass in June 2023, admirably filling the void left by the departure of Carlsson. After the six-cut prelude, the faithful mountain flock was warmed up and wired for the main event at 9:30 pm.

Warren Haynes, Matt Abts
Michelle Wilson
Warren Haynes, Matt Abts
Kevin Scott, Warren Haynes, Matt Abts, Danny Louis
Michelle Wilson
Kevin Scott, Warren Haynes, Matt Abts, Danny Louis

Back on Halloween 2008, Gov’t Mule first performed their three-hour homage to Pink Floyd’s Alan Parsons-produced The Dark Side of the Moon at Boston’s Orpheum Theatre, and it was recorded for a live album. Coinciding with the 50th anniversary of Pink Floyd’s magnum opus, Haynes decided that it was time to do it again. This Red Rocks extravaganza would mark only the eleventh time that Mule would embark on the Pink Floyd-inspired prog rock journey of Dark Side of The Mule, the band’s unique spin on timeless Floyd classics including a spectacular laser light show, and this time they dug even deeper into the Floyd archives. Haynes’ piercing slide never sounded better, and Scott made it obvious why he was chosen for this band.

Warren Haynes, Matt Abts
Michelle Wilson
Warren Haynes, Matt Abts
Warren Haynes, Matt Abts
Michelle Wilson
Warren Haynes, Matt Abts
Kevin Scott, Warren Haynes, Matt Abts
Michelle Wilson
Kevin Scott, Warren Haynes, Matt Abts
Warren Haynes
Michelle Wilson
Warren Haynes
Dark Side of The Mule with Machan Taylor, Sophia Ramos, Jackie Greene
Michelle Wilson
Dark Side of The Mule with Machan Taylor, Sophia Ramos, Jackie Greene

Joined by Ron Holloway on saxophone as well as Machan Taylor and Sophia Ramos on backing vocals (all of whom were part of the original Halloween 2008 show), plus the multi-faceted Jackie Greene on guitar, keys and vocals, the ensemble absolutely slayed the “Pink Mule” material. Beginning with “Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts I-V)” and accented with Holloway’s brilliant sax, the collective then switched gears to the funky “Have A Cigar” with Abts on vocals followed by the doleful “Welcome to the Machine” featuring Greene on synthesizer and sharing vocals with Haynes. Taylor and Ramos each took a turn tackling the seminal Claire Torry solo during “The Great Gig in the Sky,” and then the two contrasting voices comingled and sent shivers up every spine in the house. Haynes playfully replaced “Away, Away” with “Ron Holloway” in the outro to “Money” as Holloway’s sax played on. Closing it out with the killer basslines and scorching slide of “One of These Days,” the mellower vibe and iconic riffs of “Fearless” and the timeless, evocative “Echoes,” the band briefly stepped off stage before returning for the encore. Ever humble, Haynes turned over lead vocals and tasteful guitar licks to Greene on “Comfortably Numb,” although Haynes did slaughter the closing guitar work himself. At 11:20 pm, after another quick departure, the band reappeared to round it out at 11:25 pm with “Wish You Were Here” featuring Greene’s venerable slide. The crowd sang along and once again, the chills set in. The feeling was indescribable, and I was thrilled to be a part of it.

Dark Side of The Mule with Ron Holloway, Machan Taylor, Sophia Ramos
Michelle Wilson
Dark Side of The Mule with Ron Holloway, Machan Taylor, Sophia Ramos
Dark Side of The Mule
Michelle Wilson
Dark Side of The Mule
Dark Side of The Mule
Michelle Wilson
Dark Side of The Mule
Dark Side of The Mule
Michelle Wilson
Dark Side of The Mule
Dark Side of The Mule with Ron Holloway and Jackie Greene
Michelle Wilson
Dark Side of The Mule with Ron Holloway and Jackie Greene

The Dark Side of the Moon is literally my desert island album, and hearing it get the Mule makeover was quite a treat. Haynes has stated that this is the end of the line for live performances of Dark Side of The Mule, but I have my doubts about that. The sheer joy that they exhibited while musically soaring into the stratosphere makes me hope that it could happen again in the future. Time will tell.

Gov’t MuleJason BonhamLed ZeppelinPink FLoyd


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