It’s no surprise to find Cardiff popping up on the touring schedule of genial Joe Bonamassa, for the Welsh capital holds a special place in his heart. In the city to play a show at the, sadly, defunct ‘Point’ venue a few years back Joe clocked a poster for Sandi Thom and was instantly smitten, fortunately for him she felt the same way and they remain an item. Cardiff also seems to have cured the world’s hottest guitar talent of the flu which caused the postponement of the opening two nights of his UK jaunt and, although the Motorpoint Arena is not known for its acoustics, tonight the balance between rib shaking volume and crystal clarity is expertly achieved, and the capacity crowd are not shy of showing their appreciation.
Things seem to happen fast for Bonamassa; having been granted the official seal of approval from the likes of Eric Clapton and B.B. King he’s enjoyed a meteoric rise to fame which, coupled with an incredible work ethic, finds him flitting from his own world tours and best selling albums to providing the essential axe work for classic rock outfit Black Country Communion. Cardiff is treated to a masterclass in his versatility this evening with a show which is at its best when the spotlight is focused upon his elegiac, emotional slow hand blues work on tracks like Gary Moore’s ‘Midnight Blues’ and his own ‘Slow Train’ from recent album Dust Bowl. The audience is held spellbound despite the huge leap of faith required for these damp loving souls of perpetually rain sodden South Wales to even begin to imagine what a dust bowl might be like. In many ways Bonamassa is the natural heir to the sadly departed Moore, lacking the innate melodic sense of someone like David Gilmour but more than compensating for that with explosive, pyrotechnic energy and heart stopping dynamics.
The show is all about Bonamassa’s talent but he’s allowed to shine so brightly due to the solid, unobtrusive bedrock laid down by the rhythm section and, in particular, the fluid bass lines of Carmine Rojas. The monumental groove created by this outfit comes together most effectively in the climax of tonight’s show when Bonamassa takes a demolition ball to his childhood heroes and, wielding the classic flying V axe, tears through some electrifying Led Zep riffs. He’s a stylish guy, combining the mania of John Lithgow and the effortless grace of Nic Cage, and there’s no doubt that Cardiff has a whole lotta love for Joe Bonamassa. Catch him now, he’s on fire.