Arsehole, derivative, dickhead. These are just some of the terms I’ve heard used to describe Joe Bonamassa over the years. Hell, longtime followers of The Friendly Critic already know all about how the fellow is (supposedly) a pretentious wanker. He seems like a decent sort of chap to me but that’s beside the point, the facts are these: the guy (a) is a phenomenal guitar player, unquestionably one of the finest bluesmen of the 21st century and (b) puts on a pretty incredible live show.
“I’m sure you’re wondering ‘where the fuck is “The Ballad of John Henry”?'”
So, first song of the evening, this is where you make a statement, get the crowd pumped up. What is he going to play? Does he go for a foot stomper like ‘John Henry?’ Or maybe a slow burner like fan favourite ‘Sloe Gin?’ Perhaps in honour of St. Patrick’s Day he’ll break out that Rory Gallagher cover from his first record. Yeah, none of those are on the setlist tonight. Instead, Joe Bonamassa (or John Bonhamjovi as my father can’t seem to stop calling him) starts us off with four (4) straight songs from his new record due in September. Bit of a risk sure, playing songs that nobody knows, but the crowd, sheltering from the snow inside of a sold-out Brighton Centre, are quick to voice their tremendous approval. It’s going be a fun evening, I can tell you that right now.
After that we’re back on familiar ground with Joe’s horn-driven take on Albert King’s ‘I Get Evil,’ followed by a pair of tunes from his 2016 record Blues Of Desperation. We get a treat in the form of Bernie Marsden (you know, the guy from Whitesnake?) who appears onstage to trade licks on ‘Breaking Up Someone’s Home,’ after which JoBo and drummer Anton Fig launch into the pounding opening riff of ‘Slow Train’ from 2011’s Dust Bowl. The show concludes with a cover of Leon Russell’s ‘Hummingbird,’ a tribute to the great BB King.
The set clocks in at over two hours but JB and the band never let up for a moment. When we aren’t hearing the man himself tear through one of his blistering leads we’re being awed by the trumpet solos of Lee Thornburg (Tower Of Power, Supertramp), dazzled by the BVs of Jade McRae, Juanita Tippins and saxophonist Paulie Cerra or wowed by the bass lines of Michael Rhodes, all underscored by the masterful playing of Reese Wynans (Rock and Roll HOFer with SRV and Double Trouble) on keys.
Whatever you think about Bonamassa personally, for my money anyone who claims to be a fan of the blues would be foolish not to go see this lot should the opportunity arise. Just make sure you pack some ear protection and try not to run over any intoxicated St. Paddy’s Day revellers on your drive home.
Up next the Joe Train rolls into Europe with stops in Germany, Austria, Poland and Belgium before terminating back in the UK at Hampton Court palace on June 12th. Check out the dates here.
- King Bee Shakedown
- Evil Mama
- Just ‘Cause You Can
- Self Inflicted Wounds
- I Get Evil
- No Good Place For The Lonely
- How Deep This River Runs
- Breaking Up Someone’s Home
- Slow Train
- Driving Towards The Daylight
- Boogie With Stu
- Last Kiss
- How Many More Times