Concert Reviews

Joe Bonamassa (2019) Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     April 30, 2019    
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Joe Bonamassa - Royal Albert Hall, London (UK) - 26 April 2019

After travelling eastwards along the M4 from the depths of the Valleys into the manic business of London, I was on a date with Blues and Rock and had to be sat in my place, by 7.30pm on the dot, for tonight was a special occasion. For tonight was the third and final night Blues Rock Master and guitar maestro Joe Bonamassa and his world-class musicians were performing at the Royal Albert Hall, a venue with which the hardest working Blues man attributes to changing his life and career after performing here over a decade ago. This is was a far cry from seeing him playing at The Point in Cardiff. Stepping into the arena and taking my place amongst the eager attendees in this sold out show, you could feel the sense of excitement sparking through the air,

Joe Bonamassa by Robert Sutton Live 1

Promptly, right on time, the house lights dimmed. Shortly after, they started to rise. Whoops and cheers could be heard echoing in the semi-darkness, building more and more. The intro music of Muddy Waters' 'Tiger In Your Tank' played and the cheering reached an all-time high. We knew the party was about to start. And bang it did. The instant the band hit the stage, the lights went up, the intro music stopped abruptly and within a brief second the whole band seamlessly continued the track live, with vivacious energy. Joe's loyal bandmates consisted of his two beautiful female Australian backing singers (who have been with him for approximately four years after only signing up for twenty-five shows), Michael Rhodes (bass), Anton Fig (drums), Lee Thornburg (trumpet) and Paulie Cerra (saxophone), and music royalty, having been inducted into the R'N'R Hall of Fame, keyboardist Reese Wynans (of Stevie Ray Vaughan's Double Trouble fame).

Joe Bonamassa by Robert Sutton Live 2

Joe's slender 6ft frame, adorned with his trademark dark grey suit, blue shirt, dark sunglasses and Fender Strat slung over his shoulder, kicked straight in with the lead riff and vocals. His instantly recognisable soulful voice, perfectly suited to the Blues genre, emanated through the air. With nearly a guitar change for every song, interchanging from his trusty Fender Strat, to a Les Paul and then Gibson, the first half consisted mainly of tracks from the 'Redemption' album, leading with 'King Bee Shakedown', to 'Evil Mama' and the funkier 'Just Cos You Can...' before moving on to 'This Train' and 'How Deep 'from 'Blues Of Desperation'.

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Expertly manipulating each string and note and the attendees with his moving lyrics, Joe demonstrated how his skills as guitarist/singer and songwriter could move the crowd through a journey of highs and lows, teasing us with every note, slide and punchy riff.

Joe Bonamassa by Robert Sutton Live 3

Ensuring that he made full use of the wide stage, he strode confidently between stage left and right, demonstrating his skills fairly so each and every person was treated to the spectacle of him moving through energetic riffs and intricate solos with expert precision.

Joe Bonamassa by Robert Sutton Live 4

Mid-way came one of the most emotive and melancholic offerings of his repertoire, 'Sloe Gin'. I just have to hear those opening notes and the hair stands up on the back of my neck and I get entranced, and by the look of it I was not the only one. I'm sure there were even a couple of tears in the auditorium, accompanied by shouts of "C'mon Joe" and further whooping. With a standing ovation, Joe took time out to speak to his captivated audience, who all hung onto his every word, which was actually, for a Blues man, quite humorous, remarking at how his colleagues asked him if he had a gig?' "Yes, in London", he recalled "three nights at the Royal Albert Hall" and admitted the cockiness that he did it with, to many laughs and cheers. He also remarked how his parents were in attendance and noted on how the hardworking Blues Man and band had paid for the flights and gig costs themselves.

Joe Bonamassa by Robert Sutton Live 5

Next up was time to boogie, and Joe had everyone on their feet, literally motioning to us to stand and gladly we obliged for an Albert King cover 'I Get Evil' and special guest, "My God! Its Bernie Marsden" (Whitesnake guitarist) exclaimed Joe (every time apparently) who jammed his way with ease and looked like he was having a great time. Further covers followed. Led Zeppelin's 'Tea For One' and 'I Can't Quit You Baby', moving from melancholic, extremely quiet picking into a manic frenzy of loud angry riffs which was almost deafening with the contrast. Joe was moulding his 6-foot frame around the guitar as if becoming one with the instrument in heart, soul and mind.

Joe Bonamassa by Robert Sutton Live 6

The still standing, swaying, foot tapping attendees were caught up in the magic. Covers done with and back to Joe's own repertoire came 'Little Girl' and 'Last Kiss'. Ending to a deafening applause, Joe introduced his troupe. It was obvious that the musicians gel together so well, not just musically, but as a "family", having inside jokes between each other, such as the time the brass section played the 'Simpsons' theme tune and genuinely caught Joe out, who was giggling away. They were really having a ball. The performers left the stage to screaming fans, and the auditorium was wild, the cheers for more were deafening. The lights dimmed after a few minutes, and the lone guitarist emerged from the shadows into a single spotlight for 'Woke Up Dreaming'. The crowd, who were now sat back in their seats, were again entranced onto the magic that was being bestowed onto them.

Joe's troupe had now re-joined Joe for a cover of Cream's 'SWLABR', bringing the mood right up to a high and people were back up and dancing, some at the front were almost touching the main man, stretching onto the stage. Ending on the wondrously captivating and sombre 'Mountain Time', a track that always reminds me of the call of the Welsh Valleys and their magic, the concert ended on well, you could say a low, however the standing ovation and deafening applause and cheers soon turned that around. It was a superbly polished show of Joe's talent, greatly appreciated by the attendees, which is what I would expect from a man of his calibre, a renowned Blues Rockstar, who with fluid motions of his hands can take the listener from melancholic sombre mood to a full on aggressive Rock attack. I wonder if next time Joe returns to the UK, will it be back to what seems to be his spiritual home, or will he venture further afield.

Review by Sonia Waterfield, photos by Robert Sutton

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