Written by Michael Pittman
Dec 01, 2011 at 08:00 PM
ImageWhen I walked into the Verizon Theatre for the Joe Bonamassa show I really wasn’t sure what to expect. Not being a close fan I wasn’t as familiar with his material as the rest of the sold out (2700 strong) house was. I had given up on the long guitar solos a long time ago because.. I dunno, maybe it’s that I grew up listening to Hendrix, Page, Winter, Beck, Clapton and all those guys and there just wasn’t anything to add.

As if to punctuate that feeling a friend of mine from long ago and far away sent a photograph of yours truly he found laying around. It threw me back to the days when the guitar gods reigned and every record dripped of impossible licks and left us breathlessly practicing, trying to catch up, til our fingers bled.

Then comes Joe. I was able to photograph from the edge of the stage and while I was waiting for the concert to begin I found out there was no opening act and that Bonamassa was going to play for an astonishing 2 ½ hours without an intermission. I’m thinking..”Oh no…THAT long??”

Joe grew up on strings..literally. His father owned a guitar store in Utica, NY and Joe started playing at age 4. Ever since opening for B.B. King at age 12 he’s gone on to work with people like Buddy Guy, Foreigner, Robert Cray, Stephan Stills, Joe Cocker and Gregg Allman. In the early 90’s his first band was called (appropriately) Bloodline and consisted of himself, Doors keyboardist Robby Krieger’s son Waylon and Mile Davis’ son Erin.

ImageThat Joe loves to play live was obvious this evening. He was a man of few words and let his guitar do all the talking. It spoke as smooth as silk and delivered each syllable with an honest emotion for what turned out to be a very short 2 ½ hours. His mostly British blues influenced playing cast a spell over the audience and kept all eyes on him as he soared out of Rory Gallagher’s Cradle Rock from 2000s’ A New Day Yesterday, into the solid When the Fire Hits the Sea from the just released Black Rock CD, then down to Midnight Blues, a song by the late Gary Moore he masterfully soaked in everything the blues are.

The next 3 songs were Slow Train, Dust Bowl and You Better Watch Yourself which came from this years’ Dust Bowl. Dust Bowl is just one of two CDs released this year, the other one is titled Black Rock. This evening we heard Steal Your Heart Away, Bird on a Wire, and the already mentioned Cradle Rock from that Black Rock CD. We laughed with Joe as he described the song John Henry as the closest song to a hit he’s had before he played it with everything he had…phenomenally.

Touring with Joe was a world-class rhythm section comprised of Carmine Rojas on bass, Rick Melick on keys and Tal Bergman on drums. The people each one of these guys has worked with reads like a who’s who of touring stars.

Interestingly, Joe has another band called Black Country Communion which features Jason Bonham (Zeppelin’s John Bonham’s son), Glenn Hughes (Trapeze, Deep Purple), and Derek Sherinian (Dream Theater, Kiss, Alice Cooper). It was the latter lineup that recorded the Black Rock project.

ImageThe final song of the evening was Just Got Paid Today which is of course a song that will endear you to the hearts of nearly any Texas audience. Joe took this opportunity to create a medly of the hooks from a variety of guitarists. The venerable Billy Gibbons was of course represented, as was Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton to name a couple. It was a real crowd pleaser and topped off an evening of some of the finest guitar playing I’ve heard in many years and in my opinion ranks Bonamassa with the league of all time greats.

The entire show from start to finish was produced with class and a fanatical respect for the audience. The sound couldn’t have been better, the lighting was extraordinary and of course Joe’s performance was second to none.
So guess who’s a certified Joe Bonamassa fan now? Yea, ok…I’m looking forward to his return and it can’t be soon enough! Another great LiveNation production.

Cradle Rock
When the Fire Hits the Sea
Midnight Blues
Slow Train
Dust Bowl
You Better Watch Yourself
Sloe Gin
John Henry
Lonesome Road Blues
Happier Times
Steal Your Heart Away
Blues Deluxe
Young Man’s Blues
Woke Up Dreaming
Mountain Time

Bird on a Wire
Just Got Paid