Joe Bonamassa

Live At The Greek Theatre

(Provogue Records/Mascot Label Group)

This release completes the circle on Joe’s tribute projects for the moment but with the more recent Brit Blues nod presumably to come – we saw Kevin Shirley running around filming at the Greenwich show – and in CD and DVD/Blu-Ray format. This is not a release I have had the chance to speak to Joe about, though I did hear many of the numbers included here at various Bonamassa gigs in London and The South.

The band assembled for this LA show has the cracking rhythm section of Anton Fig and Michael Rhodes, additional guitar from Kirk Fletcher, keys by Reese Wynans and trumpet/horns from Lee Thornburg, Paulie Cerra and Nick Lane. Plus backing vocals from friend of our site Mahalia Barnes, Jade MacRae and Juanita Tippins.

The show is very pro and lively with Joe bringing out various vintage axes including a Flying V, Les Pauls and Strats plus ‘Lucy’ owned by actor and singer Steven Seagal being a ’72 Dan Erlewhine as favoured by Freddie King…

A chat would have been cool because I did see Freddie King live and backed by Killing Floor whacking out San Ho Zay, Remington Ride and much more at the Toby Jug Tolworth and having even bigger hands than me and a firm handshake; Albert King and his full band at what was Hammersmith Odeon with Don Kinsey on guitar, wearing his deerstalker hat and frying Laundromat Blues and Born Under after an opening set from the J Geils Band ; as for BB the best show I saw was him at the Royal Festival Hall with The Crusaders, spitting out single-string runs over the late Joe Sample’s electric piano and cracking jokes about playing for The Queen. I sure misspent my youth, Eh?

Not all the songs selected for this double-CD set are the obvious ones. You get Born Under A Bad Sign, Hide Away, Oh Pretty Woman, Going Down and Lord help us The Thrill Is Gone. Chris Duarte owns this song now, others please desist! But you also have Cadillac Assembly Line, Hummingbird, Sittin’ On The Boat Dock and Some Other Day, Some Other Time. This is probably the right mix of favourites and the educational though with the singers aboard here Woman Across The River would have been a treat. Freddie died young and didn’t get the chance to perform the Shelter-era tunes to that many fans. On CD1, See See Baby in old-timey horn-blaring opener, with Joe using his own vocal tone but much of the originator’s phrasing and delivery. The solid riffery of Some Other Day benefits from the tinkling piano of Wynans.

Sittin’ On The Boat Dock has some stinging guitar work and crisp trumpet and horns figures, the bass a tad boomy but that’s the room. The ragtime piano lead into Going Down favoured by Max M in The Jeff Beck Group is in evidence here, the stealthy ascending chord chopping setting the scene. Good vocal, here. I Get Evil invites all listeners to do The Twist, the tempo being straight from The Peppermint Lounge. Things are funkier on Breaking Up Somebody’s Home, the guitar wheedling and croaking its way through the intro. Really ace playing. Angel Of Mercy is taken at a stabbing tempo, maybe a little too grim-faced but the axe work is hot and merciless. Cadillac eases up a bit and the strings approximation sounds chilling. The best performance and feel on this disc, especially from the additional singers. They could have afforded to make it even more Philly in ambience. The second disc kicks off with Oh Pretty Woman and its traditional pacing, the trumpet and horns adding spice; Let the Good Times Roll was perfected by The Blues Brothers and this take adds nothing to their version.

Never Make Your Move is a number I played countless times with London Slim and works really well here, tension in the lyric and it’s put over with emphasis here. Sweet electric piano tone. Boogie Woogie Woman puts me in mind of Lafayette Leake it’s that good.

Hummingbird is the winner on this one, everything works and Joe sings it with fine feel and pacing. You’d be going something to cock up Hideaway with this rhythm section and nobody does. Born Under is very traditional in presentation here. It’s a cool song but for me the needling harp work by Paul Butterfield on his live records is the stuff I want to hear, not that this edition isn’t polished and tuneful and an asset to the record.

The show closes with Riding With The Kings…the John Hiatt composition I think. Once again a very professional, good-value show. The DVD has some bonus items including a conversation with Joe’s Parents. Unless Joe next plans to honour Ray, Bobby, Tina and Lord Charles maybe that’s it for the nods for a while. He’ll be aware that in the long run we need to know what Joe Bonamassa creates, with his last album being a step in that direction.

Pete Sargeant


Buffalo Summer’s second album ‘Second Sun’ is out now on UDR GMBH. For more information visit the band’s website here: