reviewer: Andy Snipper
Joe Bonamassa on Friday last was superb – that is the good news but there is more.
He walked onstage with the most beaten up Strat you could imagine and ripped into ‘Cradle Rock’, ‘When The Fire Hits The Sea and ‘Midnight Blues’ – all on Rory Gallagher’s Strat and playing well enough to pay genuine tribute to one of Bonamassa’s heroes. ‘Slow Train’ followed and the audience was in a world of excitement leading into a stunning ‘Dust Bowl. By the time he played ‘Sloe Gin’ the set was cooking on full gas and he continued to punch out one great number after another.
This is a man who can play any style of Blues you want and his time with BCC has taught him how to riff as well and we got everything in 2 hours 15 minutes of sublime playing including a storming version of The Who’s ‘Young Man’ and a powerful and huge ‘Ballad Of John Henry’.
The acoustic ‘Woke Up Dreaming’ was played harder than most electric guitarists are capable of and he finished the set proper with ‘Mountain Time’
For his first encore he duetted with his missus, Sandi Thom, on Leonard Cohen’s ‘Bird On A Wire’ and then closed with the powerhouse ‘Just Got Paid’. I would have loved to hear ‘Black Lung Heartache’ or ‘The Whale That Swallowed Jonah’ from the new album but c’est la vie.
All that is good but…
I would say that I have been championing Joe Bonamassa now for over 10 years and I have been lucky enough to catch Joe at venues ranging from the ridiculously small (Green Man Barnet), through the Borderline, Shepherds Bush Empire and on to the Royal Albert Hall and last year’s incredible set at Hammersmith Apollo as well as with Black Country Communion and Jack Bruce. With the possible exception of Walter Trout I don’t think there is a harder working and playing guy in World Blues today.
I say this because I think I have seen Mr Bonamassa’s progression through and I have to say that while his set at Hammersmith on Friday was superb it may mark the first point at which I don’t think he has moved forward. Last year at the same venue there was a sense of a milestone as he played to the most people in one place he had ever done before – 5,200. This year they squeezed in another 300 and somehow it felt a little less like ‘Our Joe Bonamassa’ than Joe Bonamassa being presented by ‘Big Corporate’. He seemed as much the people’s performer as ever and I can’t think of anyone else who can put a set as long and as ‘simple’ over entirely on his own merits but the organization around him felt stifling. Just as an example, almost before the last notes of ‘Just Got Paid’ were hit, the PA blasted out recorded music – no time for the fans to stand and cheer, just ‘get out there and hit the t-shirt stall on the way out’.
On the other hand he has achieved more in ten+ years than most manage in 50. And he still plays guitar with more talent than anyone else around and has more chops and styles than anyone else and I still would do most anything to see him above any other guitarist I may ever have heard. And it was all on display on Friday so it ain’t all bad.
When the fire hits the sea
You Better Watch yourself
Lonesome Road Blues
Steal Your Heart Away
Song of Yesterday
Young Mans Blues
Woke Up Dreaming
Bird On A Wire
Just Got Paid