Jimmy Sakurai showed us who is the boss with a terrific Led Zeppelin tribute performance in Roppongi.
Jimmy Sakurai with Celebration Daze at Bauhaus in Roppongi, Tokyo, Japan on 28th January 2024
The world is full of tribute acts. Some are terrible, some are fun, some are good and a few are excellent. Then there is Japanese guitarist Jimmy Sakurai, aka Mr Jimmy. Jimmy has dedicated his whole musical career to channelling the classic work of Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin. He recreates Jimmy Page’s music and stage moves (sometimes even copying specific concerts note-for-note) as authentically as possible. It is an obsession for him and we thank him for it. For part of this show in Roppongi, he played his guitar with a violin bow, just like Page did back in the day. Sakurai is so good that Jason Bonham, son of the late Led Zep drummer John Bonham, invited him to be the guitarist for Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Evening.
This Sunday evening at the legendary Roppongi club Bauhaus was sold out. The audience consisted mostly of die-hard Led Zep fans. Being a tribute act performing in front of a crowd that is knowledgeable and consists of dedicated fans of the original band can be a hard thing to do as every note and every stage move will be scrutinised. The evening started with a little talk show when radio host Kiyoharu Yaguchi interviewed photographer Wataru Asanuma about his experience of documenting Led Zeppelin with his camera back in the day. Hearing Led Zeppelin stories from a man who was there when the action took place was a nice way to kick off an evening of appreciating the music and legacy of Led Zeppelin.
That Jimmy Sakurai was going to be terrific was a given and I was impressed with all the members of Celebration Daze. It is hard enough to be in a tribute band and to be in one where you are performing with Jimmy Sakurai raises the bar further. Jimmy didn’t disappoint and neither did his bandmates – Yoko Kubota (vocals), Ryota Terasawa (bass) and Motonosuke Higuchi (drums). They paid their respects to Led Zeppelin’s legacy with an excellent set. The setlist was focused on early Led Zeppelin songs from the late 60s.
Jimmy and the band opened with “Train Kept A-Rollin’” and continued with “I Can’t Quit You Baby”. The evening featured terrific renditions of bluesy Led Zeppelin rock songs such as “Lemon Song”, “Sugar Mama”, “Dazed and Confused”, “You Shock Me”, “Heartbreaker” and “Whole Lotta Love”. Jimmy was in the mood. His three bandmates were up for the challenge. Drummer Motonosuke Higuchi pulled off an exquisite Bonham-style drum solo in “Pat’s Delight”.
This is what tribute acts should be about – keeping a legacy alive, especially for artists who are no longer active. Seeing Jimmy keeping the Led Zep legacy alive with mind-blowingly great performances is reassuring. Rock’s not dead. Classic rock still has an audience and musicians like Jimmy Sakurai will keep performing the old classics. Thank you to Music Life Club, Legend of Rock and Bauhaus for keeping the flame alive.