The Columbus Dispatch

Saturday, March 19, 2011
By Curtis Schieber

There should have been a sign hanging over the entrance to the Palace Theatre before the Joe Bonamassa show tonight that read something like, “This concert is intended for guitar freaks, though any rock ‘n’ roll fan is welcome.”

The Utica, NY native and child blues prodigy played thousands of notes for well over two hours, never without an axe around his neck and only rarely spotlighting his killer band.

In short, it was a night of wailing, energy-drenched solos that never ceased to impress even if they sometimes dragged on.

Bonamassa began delivering those licks on stage at age 8 – guesting with his hero B.B. King – and hasn’t stopped developing his skill or the range of his style since.

Interestingly, the side that briefly lost its luster last night was the blues side, specifically that echoing Stevie Ray Vaughan. By the time he got to the rowdy roadhouse blues of You Better Watch Yourself midway through, the licks, even though they were jam-packed with energy, got to be a little too familiar.

The two hours rarely dragged, though, because Bonamassa drew from 10 years of recordings and spiced the set with a wide range of settings.

Dust Bowl tapped a silky ’70s soul sound while Sloe Gin flew high in aural space with an extended solo that recalled Eddie Hazel on Funkadelic’s Maggot Brain. The tune marvelously worked the sticky, soporific quality of the drink in its title into its mood.

Alone for an acoustic guitar interlude, Bonamassa strung together a half-dozen pieces that spanned in influence from flamenco to folk and country blues.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Bonamassa hit hardest when he just let the riffs hit fast and hard. The Ballad Of John Henry, which he said was placed in the “Top Ten Riffs of the Decade” by a British magazine, rode classic, pile-driving chords before settling into a spacey but smoldering solo.

Mose Allison’s Young Man Blues, a staple of ’60s blues and rock bands, was an evening high, as Bonamassa let it all go in an earth-shaking, Led Zeppelin-inspired piece of rock and roll. It as much fulfilled the promise of that 8-year-old as all the blues riffs that came before combined.

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