Joe Bonamassa

HMV Apollo , Hammersmith, UK

The best way to review Joe Bonamassa’s show at HMV Apollo, Hammersmith would be to leave this page blank, because he quite simply left us speechless. Alternatively, if we had the funds we would buy you all a ticket and send you to see him live, suffice to say we can’t really do either.At just 34 years of age Joe Bonamassa has had a musical career that many guitarists would be more than happy with in a lifetime. Tonight Joe strides casually out onto the stage holding Rory Gallagher’s Strat, which he had been very kindly lent to play for the first three songs. An honour not lost on Joe who reveres guitar greats, as much as he is now revered by guitarists and music fans alike. The quality of this instrument and the beautiful sound it creates at the hands of Joe Bonamassa are not lost on anyone and it is a privilege for us to hear this well known instrument played again and what better than to hear Rory’s Cradle Rock played as the opening track, a fitting tribute.

Joe’s third track is again another great tribute, this time playing the late Gary Moore’s Midnight Blues, who we sadly lost earlier this year, a beautiful track, eloquently played by Joe.

A guitar change follows, as does the title track of Joe’s latest album Dust Bowl, which is great to hear live and by the time we get to Sloe Gin the crowd is well warmed up and a huge cheer erupts. This is one of Joe’s most popular songs and it really exposes his vocal talent as he sings ‘Sloe gin, sloe gin, tryin’ to wash away the pain inside’, you feel any pain you may have had well and truly washed away, that or it has been drown in the alcohol you have consumed from the bar.

For the most part, Joe lets the music and his guitar do the talking, but occasionally he takes time to let us in on Joe the man and see a little of his personality, for he is in fact a very funny person. Joe had just last week suffered with the flu, forcing him to cancel two shows here in the UK (which have been re-scheduled already). He spoke about posting online and asking fans for home remedies, of which the two best were one from a guy in Arkansas who suggested having half a bottle of whisky and sex with a beautiful woman and the other came from a man in the UK who suggested a whole bottle of whisky and sex with a very fat woman, Joe told us he had tried both, as well as cleared the shelves of Boots pharmaceutical counter.

“After 12 albums and 136 songs, this is the closest I have had to a hit, not that it was a hit, but it came the closest” he declares, before playing The Ballad of John Henry, which has everyone from the guy who looks like your dad, to the guy who looks like your kid brother and all the ladies inbetween singing along.

Whilst many guitarists prefer to stick to a certain make and/or model of instrument, Joe seems to have one of everything and next out is a red Gretch for the sublime Steal Your Heart Away, which is followed by a guitar/drum off between Joe and new drummer Tal Bergman, showing him to be an extremely suitable replacement for Bogie Bowles, who left Joe’s band at the end of last year.

A Joe Bonamassa show is not complete without the acoustic guitar, which he plays with the passion of a flamenco guitarist combined with the delicacy of a young choir boy hitting the highest note of a classical piece of music. Unfortunately, this moment is interrupted by some dickhead in the audience who shouts out “stop showing off”, who is swiftly and mid guitar lick is given the middle finger by Joe. Seriously if you are going to go to a show to shout out something like that, why are you there? Unperturbed Joe plays on, bringing Mountain Time to a perfect close.

The inevitable encore, brought with it a little surprise for the audience, when Joe was joined by “the love of [his] life”, Scottish singer-songwriter Sandi Thom, for a duet cover of Leonard Cohen’s Bird On A Wire. Their voices make a good duet pairing and compliment each other well. Joe closes tonight’s show with ZZ Top’s Just Got Paid, a musically tight and rousing finale to another great show by Joe.

Joe’s time in Black Country Communion (his group with Glenn Hughes, Derek Sherinian and Jason Bonham) has given him the chance to learn more and his guitar playing the chance to grow, to pick up some more rock riffs, which he incorporated into some of tonight’s playing.

Joe Bonamassa truly is a guitar legend of our time and someone you should go out of your way to see live when he tours again in March 2012.

Set List

Cradle Rock (Rory Gallagher cover)
When The Fire Hits The Sea
Midnight Blues (Gary Moore cover)
Slow Train
Dust Bowl
You Better Watch Yourself
Sloe Gin
The Ballad of John Henry
Lonesome Road Blues
Happier Times
Steal Your Heart Away
Song of Yesterday
Young Man’s Blues
Woke Up Dreaming
Mountain Time


Bird On A Wire (Leonard Cohen cover) – duet with Sandi Thom
Just Got Paid (ZZ Top cover)