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Royal Albert Hall, London 4 May 2009
By the time Joe Bonamassa recalled the fact that it was barely 5 years since he
made his UK debut to some 60 people and that he was now humbled to now be
playing to 4,500, he had all but banished any lingering doubts as to how his
virtuoso playing and reinterpretation of 60’s Brit blues would transfer to the
bigger stage of the Albert Hall.
In truth he played supremely well but left nothing to chance by calling on
both Eric Clapton for a stonking ‘Further Down the Road’ and the original
British blues boomer and harp player Paul Jones for a rasping version of
‘Your Funeral, My Trail’.
But the icing on the cake aside, this show was both a celebration of Joe’s
coming of age as much as a demonstration of the enduring popularity of British
For while Joe has predicated his career on historical antecedents he has built
up an impressive catalogue of his own.
Opening with the slightly eastern flavoured instrumental ‘Django’ and segueing
into the pile driving ‘John Henry’ he also conjured up a lovely tone on ‘Stop’,
an impressive drifting blues with a Snowy White meets BB King style flurry as
part of an immaculate stop-time arrangement.
Post Clapton, he neatly slipped into acoustic mode for a mesmerising ‘Woke up
Dreaming’ on which his playing was inspirational and a tub thumping ‘High Water
Everywhere,’ in the company of just two drummers Bogie Malone and Anton Fig.
Cute harmonics aside, this number showed just how much his vocal prowess has
improved. And as Joe returned to electric guitar for the tension building ‘Sloe
Gin’ - complete with the unforgettable Tim Curry’s refrain ‘I’m So Damn Lonely’
and a brilliant pregnant pause before his guitar cut through - you could almost
feel the collective will in the room pushing him on to greater heights.
A quick switch to his flying V and a symbolic toss of his sunglasses into the
ranks just before a rousing ‘Just Got Paid’ all but brought the house down,
while his use of a theramin was greeted like the second coming.
But then again Joe Bonamassa represents the hopes of a generation past, but one
that continues to actively support the British variant of rock-blues, a
historical invasion of America that 40 years later he has impressively reversed
as a guitarist, bluesman and musical catalyst.
It was perhaps fitting that Joe should finish this master class with a slow
blues ‘Asking Around For You’ on which he brought real feel to his sumptuous
playing. His heartfelt closing message ‘Thank you London for making this the
greatest night of my life’ was a sentiment rapturously shared by all of his
disciples last night.
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