Joe Bonamassa that’s who. I’ll say it again for you, Joe Bonamassa! There, enough said. For those in the know that’s all that’s needed to be said. “What was last night’s show like?” people ask me, “What do you think? I reply, it was Joe Bonamassa!” The Bonnamassive just know what I’m talking about and know what the name Joe Bonamassa means.
To the uninitiated, I get the response, “Bonna-Who?, never heard of him” to which I swiftly retort “you’re joking aren’t you?, he’s only the best god dam blues rock/guitarist that’s has ever walked, or is ever likely to walk the planet!”
I know that’s a bold statement and I may be shot down by many, but that’s my honest opinion and I’m sticking to it!
English Love Affair
Joe has always has a great love and admiration for English audiences and the Royal Albert Hall in particular. Joe has stated that if he could play at the world famous concert hall in SW7 just once in his career then it would be job done, life’s ambition achieved and he can die a happy man. Has the New York born guitar virtuoso achieved his life goal, yes, and in some style. Joe’s first appearance at the Royal Albert Hal was 20 years in the making and May 9th 2009 saw Joe first tread the hallowed stage where so many of his idols have tread before him.
Jump forward just over 2 weeks shy of 8 years and Joe is continuing his love affair with the Hall. Two sold out nights at the Hall prompted more dates to be added to the tour and this just shows the increasing popular of arguably the hardest working musician on the road today.
People who know about Joe and his music, know that Bonamassa simply loves the blues! is this pasty American white kid who looks like he should be staring in The Big Bang or the IT crowd really worthy of playing the blues? The old adage goes ‘you have to live the blues to play the blues.’ Joe has more than proved himself worth of playing the blues and starting his professional career opening for the late great B.B King at just 12 years old. Joe has literally lived the blues and is the greatest exponent of the blues today and is keeping the blues alive.
Joe has put out 15 solo albums to date, 11 of which have reached #1 on the Billboard Blues charts. Joe’s latest offering Blues of Desperation is what is on show tonight, as well as a handful of Bonamassa fan favourites.
When UK Joe Bonamassa shows are announced, the great British atmosphere changes as people rush to secure their tickets as they don’t want to miss out on seeing blues/rock royalty in their own back yard.
Joe, quite rightly so, works with some of the best musicians in the world and always has the crème de la crème in his touring band. Tonight was no exception and this is how the Bonamassa band lines up.
Joe Bonamassa Guitar & Lead Vocals
Michael Rhodes Bass Guitar
Anton Fig Drums
Reese Wynans Keyboards
Lee Thornburg Trumpet
Paulie Cerra Sax
Jade Macrae Backing Vocals
Mahalia Barnes Backing Vocals
You may have noticed the inclusion of backing singers in the band line up. In years gone by, if you had asked Joe what he thought about the inclusion of backing singers into his band, you would have been laughed out the room. Joe has vastly matured in his musical thinking and has grown to realise that his fans don’t just come to see him anymore but the band as a whole. The Joe Bonamassa sound is much more than just blistering lead breaks but the overall sound and that’s why Bonamassa employs the finest of musicians. Joe’s shows are as much a vocal performance as a guitar performance and the inclusion of two of Australia’s finest as a further dimension to proceedings.
As much as this is a Joe Bonamassa show, and people have paid hard earned cash to see Joe do what he does best, Joe is an incredibly respectful musician and always gives his band their chance to shine.
After blazing through 5 tracks of2016s Blues of Desperation, it’s the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee Reese Wynans’ time to shine. When I say Joe’s band includes the best of the best, this man was inducted into the Hall of fame for his work with Stevie Ray Vaughn & Double Trouble and boy did he prove his worth tonight.
Backing singers Jade Macrae & Mahalia Barnes, The daughter of Australian rock singer-sogwriter Jimmy Barnes, powerful vocals shine through throughout the set and are most powerful on ‘How Deep This River Runs’ and the final piece of the night, the Leon Russell penned ‘Hummingbird’. These two were not just here to make up the numbers, they were an integral part of the band and their vocal were incredible and I was in awe of the sheer power of the two.
Everyone got the chance to shine, from Anton Fig and his thunderous drum solo to Lee Thornburg and his trumpet introduction to Dust Bowl and every time they had there moment, Joe urged the crowd to show their appreciation of the talent on show; not the highly knowledgeable and respectful Albert Hall crowd needed much persuasion.
Joe introduces the band and you can tell he too is in awe on the talent on show introducing them as the best dam musicians on the planet.
I loved the energy and interaction between all the band members and you can see that they wholeheartedly wanted to be there playing the music they love. They were not just going through the motions, each and every one, in particular the ever grooving Barnes on bass, was fully lost the music and in the zone.
I have a huge admiration and respect for what Joe has achieved over his ever evolving career. Joe plays the music he loves to the people who love it. It may have taken several years but Joe Bonamassa has grown a loyal fan base who respect, admire and appreciate the music Joe is producing. Bonammassa is a true blues player and is keeping the blues alive one note, one song, one album and one gig at a time. Joe continues to evolve and with each tour, collaboration and album he brings something new and something exciting.
Royal Albert Hall 21st April 2017 Set list.
Blues of Desperation
No Good Place for the Lonely
Hoe Deep This River Runs
Boogie with Stu
Never Make Your Move Too Soon
Angle of Mercy
** Band Intros**
Love Ain’t a Love Song
Gave Up Everything For You
How Many More Times
Joe Bonamassa is one hugely talented guitar player and his note perfect, spellbinding, memorising blistering solos reaffirm what we already know, JB is one of the best this universe has ever seen , or ever likely too.
However, this god gifted blues player doesn’t let this go his head, far from it. Joe is keeping the blues alive and is always playing homage to the true greats and his heroes such as Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf, John Lee Hooker, Buddy Guy, Albert Collins, Robert Johnson, B.B King, Freddie King, Albert King, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page to name but a few.
Keep an eye out for Joe and be sure to catch a show when you can. This man is a true guitar great, and true guitar god and I am truly blessed to have seen Joe Bonamassa on several occasions and each time I leave with a great respect for Joe, the blues and music in general. The world is a better place for having Joe on it. Long live the blues, long live Joe Bonamassa and long live music.
Words and Photos by Richard Bolwell