Joe Bonamassa is a machine.
It’s the only thing I can think of that could possibly explain the immense talent that oozed out of his fingers, through his guitar, and into the ears of the audience members on Friday night. I simply do not believe that he is human.
As soon as the brilliance began, I was reminded of the television show, Supernatural, aka the reason I know all of the words to ACDC’s Back in Black, and the match that sparked my love for Led Zeppelin way back in 2005. There’s a particular episode of the show that is set in Mississippi, and which revolves around a man that goes on to become the greatest blues guitarist that ever lived. This man is obviously a figment of the creator’s imagination, but the fact that an instant connection was made between Bonamassa and this fictional blues prodigy should be some indication of just how fantastic Bonamassa is at what he does.
While Bonamassa hails from New York, at just 12 years old he opened for Mississippi’s own B.B King, explaining the strong Southern influences in Bonamassa’s tunes. It’s a sound that you instantly associate with a classic American car, a pair of aviators, and your dad’s old leather jacket. There’s something entirely familiar about the smooth sounds that would make someone who had never so much as stepped foot in the United States believe in the American Dream – the “Land of the Free”.
I hadn’t had much to do with his music prior to walking into the venue, but I walked out feeling like a portion of my life has been wasted by not acknowledging this man’s greatness, and his influence on the blues/rock genre. Interestingly, despite having twelve studio albums, half of Bonamassa’s setlist consisted of covers of other artists’ songs, such as Led Zeppelin, Betty Davis, and B.B King. Normally, this would have been boring, seeing another dude cover another Zeppelin song is not an uncommon occurrence, after all. But, somehow, there was nothing stale about Friday night’s show.
On record, Bonamassa is pretty damn good. On stage, he is quite literally mind-blowing.
Joe Bonamassa’s vocals are fantastic, and compliment the music wonderfully, but they pale in comparison to his guitar skills. Our tickets dubbed the evening “The Guitar Event of the Year”, and it soon became clear as to why. I’m not even sure how to go about explaining just how impressive this man is, or the ease with which he busts out seemingly endless, intricate solos. While many remained seated throughout the show (I assume for no other reason than being glued to their seats, awestruck), there were a select few who couldn’t help but get out of their seats and dance for the entire two hours that Bonamassa was on stage.
Had Bonamassa taken to the stage alone, the atmosphere wouldn’t have been anywhere near as awesome as it was. He was joined by 8 band members, each adding their own magic to the performance, whether that be through the creamy sounds of the saxophone, the back-up singers’ endearing dance moves (which included Jimmy Barnes’ daughter, Mahalia), or the thudding bass lines created by the bassist. There were times where Bonamassa and some members of his band were so perfectly in sync that they wouldn’t have looked at all strange jamming back-to-back in the middle of the stage. It became evident that Bonamassa is highly appreciative of the value his talented pals add to his performances, when he took five minutes out of the show to introduce each one individually, giving them the attention that they whole-heartedly deserve. As a group, they are seamless, and it is almost as though each individual was made with the other members of the band in mind. They were faultless.
The entire shindig made you feel as though you should immediately become a whiskey connoisseur, and express your drunken thoughts with a Southern drawl. Many that take on the challenge of creating this kind of music fall short, but it really was a stunning ode to the blues. I struggle to put such magnificence into words, but my iPhone notes summed the night up quite nicely:
“That was f***ing wild.”
Blues of Desperation
No Good Place for the Lonely
How Deep This River Runs
Going Down (Moloch cover)
Pretending (Eric Clapton cover)
Love Ain’t a Song
If I’m in Luck I Might Get Picked Up (Betty Davis cover)
Angel of Mercy (Albert King cover)
Boogie Woogie Woman (B.B King cover)
How Many More Times (Led Zeppelin cover)
Hummingbird (B.B King cover)