Friday 21st April 2017
Royal Albert Hall, Kensington, London, United Kingdom
As I approached the beautiful building The Royal Albert Hall in the heart of Kensington, it became clear that I wasn’t at one of the Proms as large groups of people wearing Joe Bonamassa t-shirts from previous tours descended on this hallowed ground.
A film crew were videoing members of the audience who had seem Joe at RAH previously and enquiring why they returned. I think I overheard someone say that the videos were going to be on his Facebook page alongside post-show reaction clips.
It is important to note that this performance was the second of two sold-out London shows for Joe and part of the UK leg of his huge European tour. As with all of his gigs the merchandise desks were filled with CDs and vinyl chronicling his entire career and tour t-shirts but I felt that £30 each for a shirt was a bit steep for the average punter.
Taking my seat for the 7.30pm start, the house lights went down and chugging harmonica blues filled the speakers. On walked Joe and his insanely talented seven-piece band to large cheers before going straight into ‘This Train’ in the key of D from his latest album ‘Blues of Desperation’.
The legendary Rock And Roll Hall of Fame member Reese Wynans plays like he’s been possessed by some blues demon as the fluid keyboard plays out. The guitar solo is bright and punchy and says “Hello Kensington. We’re here!”
As the band play more cuts from Joe’s latest musical offering, the groovy drummer Anton Figg is quite simply a magician as the exciting drum fills come thick and fast. For me, he is in the list of the greatest drummers ever alongside Vinnie Colaiuta, SRV Double Trouble member Chris Layton, Jim McCarty of The Yardbirds, Darby Todd, Henry Spinetti, Andy Newmark, Black Stone Cherry’s John Fred Young and the late Alphonse Mouzon to name a few.
The range of electric guitars was extraordinary with several of Joe’s axes including several Les Pauls, a Fender Telecaster, Gibson Flying V, a Firebird and a gorgeous Tobacco Stratocaster getting an airing. Interestingly, Joe was not playing wirelessly but with two separate leads for his guitars instead.
A very welcome addition to Bonamassa’s band were two female vocalist from Sydney, Australia Jade McRae and Mahalia Barnes. They added some vocal warmth to the songs especially on ‘Love Ain’t A Love Song’ from the ‘Different Shades of Blue’. Wynans’s James Bond-esque organ was a classy touch. One thing that you may or may not know dear reader, is that the powerhouse vocalist Mahalia Barnes recorded an album with Joe entitled ‘Ooh Yea! – The Betty Davis Songbook’ in 2015 and it was fantastic. I wish that they were able to tour that album in the UK as they are a really funky pairing and it is a really underrated release.
You can read our full review of ‘Ooh Yea! – The Betty Davis Songbook’ here: http://bit.ly/1lD5n6V
The horn section comprising of Lee Thornburg (Horn Arranger, Trumpet and Trombone) and Paulie Cerra (Saxophone) are clever because they never overplay and when they do it is on point. At one point, Thornburg played this haunting muted trumpet alongside the piano intro and it was reminiscent of Miles Davis especially when he released ‘Bitches Brew’.
When one of Joe’s musical projects called Rock Candy Funk Party released their debut album ‘We Want Groove’ the cover was homage to Miles Davis’s ‘We Want Miles’ with the same font and colour scheme.
“Thank you for coming out. I love this venue. This all started on the 4th May 2009 when I forever became known as the idiot in the suit and sunglasses!” joked Bonamassa.
Throughout the 15-song set, bassist Michael Rhodes maintained a steady groove as Bonamassa weaved in originals as well as his versions of blues classics. The moments when they both performed a sort of music instrument duel were particularly fun.
In conclusion, Joe Bonamassa and his crisp live band entertained 5,000 people for two hours on a mild Friday night in April at one of the greatest music venues on earth.
It was refreshing to hear more of his own material as in recent years he has been very big on performing whole shows consisting of the music of Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf, Three Kings (Albert King, Freddie King and B.B. King) as well as his Salute To The Great British Blues Explosion (Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page). As respectful as these shows were, it is when he places music from both past and future that you truly experience a Bonamassa live show and appreciate his sheer musicianship. The pairing of Joe Bonamassa and RAH is a match made in heaven for sure.
Feature Image Credit: Edyta Krzesak
Photo Credit: Richard Bolwell
Joe Bonamassa is releasing ‘Joe Bonamassa – Live at Carnegie Hall – An Acoustic Evening’ on Provogue Records/Mascot Label Group on Friday 23rd June 2017.
It will be released on CD, DVD, Blu-Ray and Vinyl. In a UK Exclusive, the vinyl will be available in Orange (Limited Edition).
To pre-order the album go here: http://bit.ly/2p5EhsG
To read more articles about Bonamassa on our website click here: http://bit.ly/1R6cul9
For more information visit his official website here: http://bit.ly/1S5W0LG