Joe Bonamassa

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author IM date 28/03/13 venue Hammersmith Apollo, London, UK

You won’t find a complete ‘Best Guitarists’ list very easily which doesn’t feature Joe Bonamassa. Widely reported to having had the ability to play Hendrix, note for note, from the age of seven and opening for B.B King aged twelve, it was always an inevitability that Bonamassa would go on to be an accomplished and celebrated musician. He boasts a musical CV not many can rival, having played along with renowned artists such as Eric Clapton, Paul Rogers, Joe Cocker and Ted Nugent, to name but a few. In addition, after three successful albums, he recently called time on super group Black Country Communion, which perhaps could not provide enough room for egos such as Glenn Hughes and Jason Bonham in one place.

Those who are not already familiar with Bonamassa’s style of blues-rock should not be deterred by the overwhelmingly large crowds of middle aged leather jacket clad men who flock to his concerts. Bonamassa caters for all audiences, playing a cross section of venues for the London leg of his 2013 ‘Driving Towards the Daylight’ tour; beginning with the cozy Borderline, moving onto the 4,000 capacity Hammersmith Apollo and concluding with the palatial Royal Albert Hall.

Joe Bonamasaa

Beginning the evening with an acoustic set, Bonamassa kicked off with an excellent rendition of Bad Company’s “Seagull” and ended with “Woke up Dreaming.” Bonamassa demonstrated his aptitude, sampling extracts of songs by Yes and Cream to rapturous applause. As the lights dimmed for the main set, the crowd buzzed with anticipation as though an electric current was passing through the whole venue.

Returning with his trademark Gibson Les Paul, and beginning his electric set with “Cradle Rock,” Bonamassa set the tone for the evening; guitar solos which built up with huge crescendos, punctuated with beautiful and soulful blues interludes.

Increasing the energy levels yet again, “When the Fire Hits the Sea,” prompted an even greater level of crowd enthusiasm. The ever-popular “Dust Bowl,” as featured on the “Live From the Beacon Theatre” album was delivered with incredible vigor and skill. The only criticism one might put forward would be that the Hammersmith Apollo concert’s set-list appeared to be following that of Bonamassa’s recently released live album, as opposed to “Driving Towards the Daylight,” which the current tour is in aid of.

Without doubt, the most striking and elaborate performance of the evening came in the form of “Dislocated Boy,” which is in fact from the aforementioned “Driving Towards the Daylight.” Bonamassa’s energy levels rocketed along with those of his keyboard player, who, despite displaying unrivaled levels of energy at all times, excelled himself during this rendition, climbing onto his chair and literally moshing at his keyboard.

Had Bonamassa continued with such velocity, it’s difficult to know what would have happened, however, he chilled out and slowed the pace for Howlin’ Wolf cover “Who’s Been Talking,” followed by Led Zeppelin’s “Tea For One.”

For the encore, Bonamassa returned with the ultimate crowd pleaser, “Sloe Gin,” his soulful voice echoing mournfully around the Apollo. No Joe Bonamassa fan, or fan of blues-rock can possibly deny that hearing the guitar maestro play the “Sloe Gin” solo live is enough to make the hairs stand up on the back of one’s neck. Not wanting to leave his audience on such a sad note, Bonamassa revived the cheerful energy by culminating with an enthusiastic delivery of ZZ Top’s “Just Got Paid.”

Fans of Joe Bonamassa can always expect to be wowed by his skillful and pitch-perfect playing, coupled with the incredible quality of his vocals, when seeing him live. In comparison with previous performances, such as last year at Nottingham Arena, the sound quality at Hammersmith was unfortunately somewhat lacking. To old and new fans, Bonamassa’s gig at the Apollo was of an incredible standard musically, however, it somehow lacked a certain intangible quality over and above this, which has featured in his previous performances.

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Setlist:

  • 1. Seagull
  • 2. Jelly Roll
  • 3. Richmond
  • 4. Athens To Athens
  • 5. Woke Up Dreaming
  • 6. Cradle Rock
  • 7. When the Fire Hits the Sea
  • 8. Dust Bowl
  • 9. Dislocated Boy
  • 10. Driving Towards The Daylight
  • 11. Who's Been Talking
  • 12. Jockey Full Of Bourbon
  • 13. Tea For One
  • 14. Lonesome Road Blues
  • 15. The Ballad of John Henry
  • - Encore
  • 16. Sloe Gin
  • 17. Just Got Paid

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