Legendary Bluesman Joe Bonamassa gives a right royal performance in London, one of 3 sold out nights in this incredible venue.
Words and Photos – John Hayhurst
We’ve taken the train south for some blues, and whilst this could have been a line from a whiskey soaked Mississippi Delta tune, for us it’s about the 14:00 from York to London King’s Cross so we can get to the Royal Albert Hall for a very sharp 19:30 start. These Bluesmen like to be on time and have early evening starts these days.
Bang on time Joe Bonamassa steps out of the shadows and on to the hallowed stage to a huge applause from another sold out crowd. The Royal Albert Hall is becoming his venue of choice in London, having played here several times before, recorded DVD’s and the first time he was here, it changed his life and forward trajectory from a guitarist that played small stand up clubs, to fully seated huge theatres all over the world. Tonight is a far cry from the first time I witnessed him when he was playing gigs like Fibbers in York or The Picturedrome at Holmfirth.
Tonight his band is made up of world class musicians, players that have been loyal to Joe over the years, backing singers that have travelled from Australia and some musical royalty like keyboardist Reese Wynans –he of Stevie Ray Vaughan‘s Double Trouble fame.
‘Tiger In Your Tank’ kicks us off and the sharp suited and shades wearing Bonamassa is already a force to be reckoned with. Punching lick after lick from his guitar as he trades the Strat for a Les Paul and then a stunning looking red Gibson 335 – just in the first 3 songs. He probably has a guitar for every track but they are always so incredibly fitting as if it’s an extension of his very being.
‘Sloe Gin’ one of his finest moments tonight and it hasn’t lost any of the darkness that inhabits those lyrics. Finally he relents from the onslaught to speak to his assembled followers and remarkably there is some great humour to be had, he explained how he had a set of Royal Albert Hall coffee cups at his home and whenever people see them they ask where he got them from, he replies “Royal Albert Hall Motherf*cker”.
Some boogie woogie blues followed and then an awesome bombastic Zeppelin ‘How Many More Times’ got the crowd on their feet. Band intros revealed how long some of these players have been playing with him – with some stunning punctuated brass and vocals courtesy of Lee Thornburg (Trumpet) and Paulie Cerra (Saxophone).
Leaving the stage to screaming fans, he returns on his own with an acoustic guitar for ‘Woke Up Dreaming’ and how he gets those sounds from that device I’ll never understand. The sound system in this cavernous arena is incredibly crisp and picks up every nuance, bended string or flick of the wrist from Bonamassa.
The crowd still on their feet lapping everything up as they are just inches away from him. The full band then return for a rousing finale of ‘Mountain Time’ – soon to surely become his signature tune. This has been a momentous journey which shows no sign of stopping, but I can’t see him moving from this venue – Shall we have 5 nights next year Joe?
SETLIST: Tiger In Your Tank, King Bee, Evil Mama, Just Cause You Can, Self Inflicted Wounds, This Train, Blues of Desperation, No Good Place for the Lonely, Sloe Gin, Well Well, Boogie Woogie Woman, Tea for One/I Can’t Quit You Babe, How Many More Times, ENCORE: Woke Up Dreaming, Mountain Time