Joe Bonamassa Brighton Centre, King’s Road, Friday
Written by: Simon Copeland
Apparently, the cabbie taking Joe Bonamassa to Friday’s show said to him, “Aren’t you the Albert Hall guy?” Quite a compliment for a young turk blues guitarist to supplant Eric Clapton as the name associated with gigs there. But maybe it’s time to start calling Bonamassa, 34, the “Brighton Centre bloke” because I doubt the venue has seen an audience cheer a show so ecstatically.
Kicking off with the riff powerhouse of Slow Train, Bonamassa and his three-man band didn’t let up for two hours of astonishing playing. They pulled off the difficult trick of making the arena seem like an intimate club. Bonamassa’s act is unashamedly retro, paying tribute to the classic rock of Cream, Free and axemen Jeff Beck and Rory Gallagher. This is a man who sees nothing Spinal Tap in having three- Yes, three- Marshall stacks on stage, or playing a double-neck guitar.
Yet Bonamassa’s jaw-dropping technique sidesteps cliché while still being faithful to the tradition. Highlights included a tender reading of Gary Moore’s Midnight Blues, a romping Young Man Blues (best known as a Who cover) and ZZ Top’s Just Got Paid, which nodded to Led Zep’s Dazed and Confused. The first encore Leonard Cohen’s Bird On A Wire, had the audience silent in wonder. The covers highlight a minor niggle, though – his own material isn’t quite as top-notch as the classics he loves. Still, all that matters is that in Bonamassa’s hands, the music of the past has a great future.