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JOE BONAMASSA, Hammersmith Apollo, London
respects Joe Bonamassa had already done the hard work and meticulous
pre-prep prior to his triumphant appearance at the Hammersmith Apollo.
he'd already managed to shift enough tickets to warrant a two day
residency at the esteemed Apollo and in doing so has taken the next step
up the career ladder.
was part of a significant step into arena level popularity, with two
nights at Hammersmith being the best London offers you, save for a
quantum leap into much bigger venues.
the small matter of his parallel career with Black Country Communion,
which is equally relevant in terms of garnering a similar up swell in
popularity with hard rock fans.
show suggested that simply in terms of volume, effortless shredding and
the presence of larger than life powerhouse drummer Tal Bergman, he's
aiming for a significant slice of that market too.
Throw in his
current critically acclaimed 'Dust Bowl' solo album and you have an
artist whose crossover appeal to a wide range of rock fans is being
And in sharp
contrast to his dressed down demeanour with BCC he reverted to his
Albert Hall mode of sharp suit, white shirt and made the most of the
sizeable space with darting movements to the lip of the stage while
cutting occasional rock star poses at the conclusion of both solos and
In short, Joe is every bit the new guitar hero for a generation of fans
of a certain age. And while Heavy Metal provides the chops and visceral
excitement for a younger generation, Joe pushes the retro button
cleverly by reshaping rock-blues in his own post Zeppelin image.
makes the most of some innovative arrangements of long forgotten songs
such as 'Sloe Gin', which was once again a show stopper tonight.
never too far away from his late 60's and early 70's calling as
evidenced by a very heavy version of Mose Allison's 'Young Man Blues'
(refracted via The Who version of course), and tonight's opener The
Cradle, played on the late Rory's Strat no less. He slipped into some
train-time rhythm on the self penned 'When the Fire Hits the Sea' and
soared on the late Gary Moore's 'Midnight Blues'.
So far so good. But the crucial thing in terms of pushing the whole
night forward to its pyrrhic conclusion was a combination of the ebbs
and flows of the set and the substance of Joe's own songs which mark him
out as special.
And in that
respect 'Dust Bowl' was a highlight, being a sumptuous groove with
Floydian overtones on the guitar intro, a husky vocal and an
irresistible ascending chorus.
was 'John Henry', a re-sculpted piece of American folklore that became
of age at last summer's High Voltage Festival and was announced by Joe
as the closest he's got to a hit.
Road Blues' with its familiar riff was heavied up with the presence of
thunder sticks Bergman, while 'Steal Your Heart Away' was less palatable
being spiky and angular.
Yesteryear' was far better and though ostensibly written for BCC was
reclaimed as one of Joe's most poignant and elegant songs.
And in a set
that nuanced every aspect of Joe's oeuvre there was room for a belated
acoustic guitar interlude on which his combination of speed, technique,
concentration and all round spine tingling virtuosity fully justified
the tension breaking roar from the crowd.
It was in
that one concluding breathtaking moment that Joe reaffirmed his position
as one of the finest musicians of his generation.
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/ Song of Yesterday/
Young Mans Blues/ Woke Up Dreaming/ Mountain Time/ Encores: Bird On A
Wire/ Just Got Paid
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