Joe Bonamassa at Easton PA State Theatre

Bonamassa Acoustic Show Review: Very Different, Incredibly Enjoyable

Joe Bonamassa at Easton PA’s State Theatre 1/14/2016

Photo by Brian Hineline

To be absolutely honest, when it comes to blues guitar, it’s all been done – and likely better than anyone else is going to do it.

So when the latest blues icon Joe Bonamassa came to Easton’s State Theatre with an acoustic show Thursday, it promised something different.

The surprise was just how different.

Despite his reputation for making guitars cry and scream, Bonamassa gave a 15-song, hour-and-40 minute show that focused precious little on his playing, and was mostly made up of songs from his upcoming new album (he told us in a recent interview it will be called “Blues of Desperation”).

On the fun, fast and funky “This Train” that opened the show, for example, he hardly played at all.

And yet the show still was incredibly enjoyable.

That’s because Bonamassa surrounded himself with a strong band: Pianist Reese Wynans, who is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Stevie Ray Vaughn’s Double Trouble; The Hooters’ front man and multi-instrumentalist Eric Bazilian; percussionists Hossam Ramsey of Robert Plant/Jimmy Page tour fame and Anton Fig from the David Letterman show; and Chinese cellist and erhuist Tina Guo.

On the second song, “Drive,” with Bazilian on mandolin and Guo on erhuist, Bonamassa’s playing again would have been missed were it not for a late-song flourish that drew huge applause from the nearly sold-out crowd – showing what the audience was most interested in.

Bonamassa, who stayed seated all night, dressed in a black suit with open collar and dark sunglasses, also displayed an underappreciated blues voice. It was strong and soulful on “The Valley Runs Low” and impressively belting on “Driving Towards the Daylight,” a song of nice depth and layers with Wynans’ piano and Bazilian’s banjo.

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