The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

JOE BONAMASSA

PERTH CONCERT HALL

23 MAY 2011

 

 

Two perspectives on the night by guest reviewers Leon Todd (RAGDOLL) and MANDY AV (AV PHOTOGRAPHY)

PHOTOS AND ADDITIONAL WORDS BY MARK DIGGINS

 

The fact that so many of Perth's musicians were here tonight was testament to the shadow that Joe Bonamassa casts. It also meant that had any disaster occurred in the region of the concert hall, then Perth would probably have been starved of decent music for a couple of generations...

 

As I was both lucky enough to have seen Joe last time he visited these shores last year in Melbourne (this was his first time in the West) and had to hold the camera tonight I'll leave it to Mandy and Leon to give you the short and long of it.

 

Mark

 

 

 

 

What an Amazing night!


As this was the first time I've seen Joe Bonamassa live expectations were high and some in the crowd like me were here because of word of mouth: and came only because friends had told them to check him out. I'm glad to say he didn't disappointus. Most of the songs I knew because of the few CD's we have. The band was fantastic musicians and very tight, the drummer gave me goose bumps on a couple of his short but powerful solo's. Was good to see all of them enjoying themselves throughout the show, like they really loved what they were doing.



The Les Paul didn't fail to impress with its unique sound, just beautiful, and from the responses of the crowd they to were just lovin’ it. There were a few comments from friends who play guitar saying after seeing Joe they might take up playing harmonica instead, he is an amazing guitarist.



Joe gave us 2 hours non stop with an encore and I'm still smiling. Those that turned up to this show not knowing anything about or hearing Joe Bonamassa before certainly won't forget him. I hope he comes back again soon.

 

Mandy

 

 

 

Leon:

 

Joe Bonamassa is somewhat of an anomaly in the modern music business; a child prodigy turned self made superstar, a died in the wool bluesman not afraid to crossover into the sphere of hard rock and a guitarist with chops and taste and a great voice!  His use of Youtube, self marketing and his immense work ethic have got him where he is, which is a refreshing change from the usual hyped up, media backed 'stars' of today.

 


The last few years have seen Joe make the steady transition from workmanlike bluesman to full blown rock god. This is suitably reflected in the venues he can not only play, but fill to the brim! On his last visit to Australia Joe was playing the 300 to 400 seat clubs, whereas tonight we see him selling out the prestigious Perth Concert Hall.

 


For me nothing beats gigs like this; a fantastic venue in a beautiful spot in Perth where I can enjoy some great music along with my beautiful girlfriend and my best mates. It's a far cry from the sort of country pubs and clubs I'm used to playing, and I'm filled with a sense of awe and appreciation for the sheer amount of hard work and time someone like Joe has put in to earn the right to play at such a great venue. It's also great seeing so many great musicians from the local scene out tonight to catch the gig, all of whom are first and foremost music lovers out to have a great time.
To say we're excited is an understatement, and upon arrival at the Perth Concert Hall there is a definite buzz among the crowd which reflects this. while the PA  Iron Maidens "2 Minutes to Midnight"; this isn't going to be your average blues gig that's for sure!

 


Before we can even settle into our seats the lights go down, the music fades and the man himself calmly strides onto the stage. With his signature Les Paul and dark shades, Joe is looking leaner and fitter than ever before. Light years away from the stereotypical stuffy and frumpy bluesman image, he looks calm and happy as he and the band launch into the first song, a fiery version of Rory Gallaghers "Cradle Rock". Not a bad way to start at all!

 

 

 


Joes signature Eric Johnson meets Billy Gibbons guitar tone is in full bloom tonight, and where I'm seated every nuance and touch is communicated crystal clear. In fact, the acoustics of the room give the impression that the guitar, as well as the vocals, are coming from high above the crowd. Together with the high ceilings of the concert hall this creates an ethereal, dare I say religious, overtone to the proceedings...we the converts of the procession here to hear the gospel according to Joe!

 


As Joe launches into the next number, his sublime take on "So Many Roads", he and the band start to hit their stride and the audience really does begin to take on the manner of a religious procession. As an artist carrying on the great oral tradition of the blues, Joe really nails it with this one while still keeping his own musical identity intact. His impassioned Paul Rodgers influenced vocals are the perfect counterpoint to his ...and we're only two songs in!

 


Joe keeps it rocking with renditions of "When the Fire Hits the Sea" and "So It's Like That" before bringing it back down with a sublime rendition of "If Heartaches Were Nickels". For me, this is the first highlight of the night. After the frenzy of fret melting souped up blues licks and riffs, Joe lays back with this one and makes his guitar weep. The backing band of Carmine Rojas (bass), Tal Bergman (drums) and Rick Melick (keyboards) paint the perfect backdrop for Joe to do his thing.

 


Next up we get two songs off Joe's latest album, Dust Bowl. I love that Joe isn't afraid to tip his hat to his influences and "Slow Train" is a great little homage to the heavy blues rock of the late 60's and early 70's. It's a signature Bonamassa rocker, melding a Zeppelinesque groove to lyrics which evoke the imagery of the American west, what I like to call "vagabond blues rock". "Dust Bowl" is a nice change of pace and really sticks out, for all the right reasons, in the set. Joes vocals on this one are fantastic and his guitar work brings to mind David Gilmour.

 

 

The first time I heard "Sloe Gin", both as a musician and a music lover, was a spine tingling experience; the guitar! The voice! The production value! The lyrics! It certainly ranks as one of my favourite 'mellow out' songs, and onight, as the lights fade and we're left with just keyboards and guitar I get a similar tingle down my spine. Live "Sloe Gin' is simply amazing, a journey through a swathe of conflicting emotions and contrasting moods; blues in it's most modern sense. There are moments where I found myself turning to look at my girlfriend Sydel where we both had the same look of 'wow, are we really getting to see this!'. While a less experienced artist may have overplayed the special signifigance of this song, Joes vocals and guitar are measured, tasteful and burn hot at just the right moments.

 


With the rapturous applause which greets the last notes of this epic, Joe finally has a chat to the crowd. He introduces the band and tells a few jokes before launching into 'the song voted to be the 10th best riff of the decade, by a bunch of people I don't know and have never met!'. Which of course gives us the mighty "Ballad of John Henry", a monolithic slab of Zeppelinisque riffery and groove. This song, more than any other, really puts forth Joes credentials as a rock god and it goes down a storm.

 

 

 


Joe then steers the crowd through funky versions of "Steal Your Heart Away" and "Midnight Blues", which have an air of fun about them. Jumping up onto the drum riser and interacting with the band, Joe really starts to get animated and all the musicians on the stage look like they're having the time of their  lives, playing music they love to a crowd who is lapping it up.

 


Then comes the real fun with a stunning cover of The Who's "Young Man's Blues" which Joe and the guys really make their own. As a massive fan of The Who hearing this one starting I was a bit skeptical, only to be won over by Joes great vocal and the animalistic drumming of Bergman, who channels the spirit of Keith Moon with an amazingly powerful drum performance. For young guys like me this is probably the closest we'll ever get to feeling the intensity that a band like The Who would have put across on stage.

 


The setlist takes another turn with Joe pulling out the acoustic for "Woke Up Dreaming", which turns into a slightly self indulgent shredfest. Still, there are shades of Al Di Meola, Albert Lee, Chet Atkins and even a bit of Tommy Emmanuel thrown in there which keeps the audience entertained. Without being a wet blanket, by this time it seemed the audience lost a bit of focus and this solo piece could have been half as long for the same effect. SO much for the 'you can never have too much of a good thing' adage...

 


"Django" is a beautiful guitar instrumental, which really brings to mind Jeff Beck's performance at the concert hall a few years back. As a guitarist I was simply in awe of Joe's control of dynamics and his touch on this one, though again it seemed the non-guitar players in the audience were left scratching their heads. The set then rounds up with a beautiful renition of "Mountain Time" and suddenly it all feels over too soon, with the mood being mellowed out masterfully with the last few tunes. A real eaye opener is watching Joe make an out of character mistake. Hey it is great to know even guitar gods are still human!

 

 

 

 

The last note of the set is greeted with rapturous applause, foot stamping and a fitting standing ovation. After a few minutes though Joe struts back onto the stage and brings the house down with his stomping cover of "Just Got Paid" by ZZ Top, and to his credit he keeps the Perth crowd involved and partying as he runs from side to side of the stage wailing on his Les Paul. He even manages to include snippets of "Stratus" before a little segue into "Dazed and Confused". I've used 'amazing' and 'sublime' enough in this review, so rather I'll just say that this version of "Dazed and Confused" is absolutely magnificent. As with all Joe's covers, it's a tasteful interpretation which is neither too close to pastiche nor too close to sacrilege. How he manages to do this is part of the mystery which drives people to come and check out his act.
The words on everyone’s lips as they leave the venue are 'sublime', 'amazing', 'awesome' and several other expletive rich yet complementary descriptions. For me it more than lived up to the hype and expectation, and it was fantastic that Joe managed to communicate his love for both classic and obscure blues, blues rock, rock and even prog to such a diverse audience. He is simultaneously carrying the torch of the blues into this century, reinvigorating interest in obscure rock music from the past four decades and painting his own unique canvas as an artist and entertainer.

 


Which leaves the question; is he a rocker who digs the blues, a bluesman who likes to cross over into rock or something else? Joe's show at the Concert Hall leaned more towards the rockier edge of things, but with a back catalogue as diverse and varied as Joe I got the impression he could either fill an arena of rock fans or pack a medium size club playing only traditional blues. Either way, if you missed your chance to see Joe in Perth you missed out on a truly sublime performance. To those who did make it, I'm sure you'll agree Mr. Bonamassa is indeed pure class. Now, who did kill John Henry..."

 

 

Many thanks to Leon and Mandy for the words; and my personal thanks to Rachael at J&R for looking after me and the camera

 

 

Mark Diggins 2011