JOE BONAMASSA - Royal Albert Hall, London 26.04.19
It was a long standing ambition of JOE BONAMASSA’s to play the Royal Albert Hall. An ambition that was realised in 2009. It holds a special place in his heart and tonight he plays the last of a three-night sell-out stint at this iconic venue. Later in the set he will tell us that he was "scared shitless" that night ten years ago. There’s no sign of nerves this evening as he delivers a masterclass in blues guitar.
As the lights go up on stage the band burst into the opening track, a cover of Muddy Waters’ ‘Tiger in your Tank’. Joe is centre stage in trademark dark glasses and a razor-sharp suit. Flanked by a crack band of musicians, playing behind music stands bearing the famous JB logo.
The delivery is cutting edge and continues into ‘King Bee Shakedown’ from the critically acclaimed ‘Redemption’ album. More intricate guitar work laced with stellar contributions from Lee Thornburg on trumpet, Paul Cerra on saxophone and Michael Rhodes on bass. The interaction between band members is infectious and the capacity audience is enthralled.
Without a break, and staying with the new album, its straight onto ‘Evil Mama’ with punchy vocals and another stunning guitar solo. The pace slows, for ‘Self Inflicted Wounds' which showcases Joe’s impassioned vocals supported ably by backing singers Mahalia Barnes and Jade MacRae. The fervent guitar solo heightens the melancholy mood in what, for me, is one of the highlights of the evening.
As ‘This Train’ begins, the lighting changes to focus on just two sections of the stage. The areas where Joe and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Reese Wynans are playing. The keyboard veteran exchanges smiles with the crowd as they recognise the opening sequence. This number is a rollercoaster of a ride. Another scorching guitar solo is accompanied by an impeccable keyboard performance that is lapped up by the Albert Hall crowd.
A haunting rendition of ‘Blues of Desperation’ follows, featuring the thunderous drumming of Anton Fig to compliment the intricate guitar work. The intro to ‘Sloe Gin’ brings members of the audience to their feet and Joe gives one the most heartfelt vocal performances of the evening.
So far, the music has been doing the talking, but it’s at his point that Joe addresses the audience for the first time this evening. He is honoured to have played three sold out shows at RAH and thanks the audience for their continued support. After introducing the band, it’s the turn of tonight’s guest performer, Bernie Marsden, the former Whitesnake guitarist, who joins him for a cover of Albert King’s 'I Get Evil'. The respect that the two musicians have for each other is evident as they alternate solos in an enticing interaction between guitar maestros.
As we enter the final section of the show, a pulsating and extended version of ‘Last Kiss’ with blistering guitar and alternating solos with Reese Wynans precedes the encores which commence with a spellbinding solo acoustic version of ‘Woke Up Dreaming’.
An immaculate 10 minute version of ‘Mountain Time’ serves as a fitting finale to a special evening spent in the company of an artist at the forefront of his craft.
Joe Bonamassa - Guitars and Vocals
Reese Wynans - Keyboards
Anton Fig - Drums
Michael Rhodes - Bass Guitar
Lee Thornberg - Trumpet
Paul Cerra - Sax
Jade MacRae & Mahalia Barnes - Backing Vocals
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