Joe Bonamassa: A Salute To The Great British Blues Explosion, Greenwich Music Time, Greenwich, London, United Kingdom
Joe Bonamassa: A Salute To The Great British Blues Explosion (Homage To The Music of Clapton, Beck & Page)
Thursday 7th July 2016
Greenwich Music Time Festival, Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich, London, United Kingdom
This was one of a series of musical shows out at Greenwich, near to the where the renowned Cutty Shark vessel is kept as a tourist attraction. Walking down to the part of the premises utilised for the performances on a sunny evening is more than pleasant.
There are some logistical niggles, the fiddly journey across town and then picking up the Docklands Light Railway takes some time ; they don’t let you take food and drink in BUT are prepared to sell you high-price vittals per their appointed franchises once you are on the premises. Nothing was cheap. During the show, the sightline from our (very good) seats was continually blocked by women shouting into their mobiles, big blokes with beards draining beer bottles, punters ambling about taking photos….this was continuous, so that an impromptu rota of seated customers formed, taking it in turns to get up and remonstrate with this parade of selfish and gormless attendees. A grandmother and grand-daughter next to us held a non-stop conversation of crushing banality, leaving out nobody and nothing they disliked. Had on the stage Hendrix returned, backing Pavarotti, this pair would not have noticed – maybe they thought Bonamassa was a celebrity chef, when booking?
The show is being filmed, also in the sightline and Kevin Shirley is seen stomping around.
But we’re here to take in the music. Joanne Shaw Taylor opens the show, in trio format and choosing material from all of her albums, light butterscotch Telecaster put through the wringer as she tears through the numbers. Without video screens we are too far away to appreciate her dexterity on the fretboard. Her smoky voice is better suited to smaller, indoor venues for maximum impact, it must be said. The probable highlight is Tried Trusted and True and many who have not seen her before are making favourable comments in the break. Her cds are on sale at the merch tent and JB fans seize upon a Special Edition tour t shirt with three guitars as the image.
Reese Wynans is on keyboards, mainly Hammond, bassist extraordinaire Michael Rhodes and Anton Fig on drums make up the rhythm section. Additional guitar, electric piano and vocals come from JB’s neighbour, Russ Irwin.
The idea of the show is for Joe to celebrate some key influences on his own development and indeed origins with the focus really on The Yardbirds – Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page. The problem is that Joe likes the selections a tad too much to really take them anywhere different. But he and the band DO play the back off them and from that perspective, this show is a fan’s dream, a special event, a real treat. Given the chance I would have urged Joe to start with The Yardbirds’ Shapes of Things and finish with the Jeff Beck subsequent take on the same song. Because the exciting blues rock movement here at the time is almost summed up by the way this song was re-worked.
Beck’s Bolero/Rice Pudding is of course familiar as a current Jeff Beck opener, well the Bolero bit, anyway. Joe puts his slide and delay pedal to good use to get the dynamic of the main guitar line
Mainline Florida nods to Eric Clapton, but is the most American sounding of all his recordings! The song is played with deep love and linear force. Joe’s guitar is relentless but melodic and you had to be impressed
Boogie With Stu was of course a keyboard outing by Led Zep and the band rock it up, keys to the fore. The number adds a light touch to the set balance
Let Me Love You Baby was a highlight of the first Jeff Beck Group album called Truth and sounded pretty authentic, though the JBG in person was a lot of fun. Nicky Hopkins would grab a mike and hang it in the acoustic piano, Rod Stewart would wander around in his tight striped trousers (proudly introducing Beck’s Boogie halfway through the show and heading off with a brandy), awesome bassist Ron Wood made booming though the changes look easy and drummer Mickey Waller pounded the skins..)
The Beck major dynamic workout Plynth is given a thorough flaying. Always an interesting tune for your bassist and drummer!
Spanish Boots gets best vocal of the night whilst his take on the 1989 Clapton track ‘Pretending’ is a magical display of guitar mastery which just captivates the crowd throughout as he weaves a melodic solo out of his Gibson axe.
How Many More Years is the Howlin’ Wolf stomper also featured in the latterday Yardbirds’ set on occasion as was dazed & Confused. I can’t remember whether LZ credited Wolf or Willie Dixon or not….
SWALBR? was when released by Cream a subject on some discussion..She Wore A Light Brown RainCoat ?? but Bonamassa makes the most of the riffs and legato guitar parts as he slams the song out. As he cheerfully admits he still has no idea what the song was about. Mind you, the same band’s BADGE was so named when George Harrison misread a note on the chord sheet saying ‘bridge’…he’s playing the other guitar, too, on that recording.
Did five Americans capture the essence of the British Blues Boom sound? Well, not quite to these ears there at the time, but respects were paid and if the footage is any good fans all over the world will be able to hear these performances. As a cohesive band performance it ticked all the boxes, hence the great crowd response.
By Peter Sargeant and Glenn Sargeant
Rockrpix is John Bull… or John Bull is Rockrpix… Much the same.
I’m based in South East London… and I love shooting Live Music, Keep Music Live! – Its my ‘Thing’