Joe Bonamassa: Live at the Wang Theatre, Boston MA November 3rd, 2011
Review by King Dale.
Photography by Micah Gummel.
With the beautiful back drop of the Wang Theatre in downtown Boston, Joe Bonamassa delighted a sold out crowd with an incredible evening of some of the best rockin’ blues you’ve ever heard.
As I sat waiting for the show to start, I looked around at the beautiful architecture & art work throughout this wonderful theatre. Originally called the Metropolitan, this stunning venue first opened in 1925, where it housed some of the country’s best operas and Broadway shows.
With the style and class that Joe B. brings to his live show, I couldn’t think of a better setting. As the lights began to dim you could feel the excitement in the air … and there he was taking his spot at center stage. The spotlight shined down on him, and he cranked out the opening of Rory Gallagher’s “Cradle Rock”. I knew right there that I was going to get a good show and Joe didn’t disappoint.
After beginning the set with this great rock classic, he really started getting into a heavy blues vibe. Kicking it off with “When The Fire Hits The Sea,” a Joe B. original with such a Delta Blues edge to it, you’d swear he’d dug it out of the banks of the muddy Mississippi.
Having lost his friend and fellow guitar virtuoso Gary Moore, earlier in the year, Joe did a very touching and soulful rendition of Gary’s “Midnight Blues”. I could not believe how quiet the hall was as he followed through with a series of delicate, yet complex blues scales with the smoothness and precision of a brain surgeon.
The crowd started cheering with delight, and you could hear the sound of a “Slow Train” chugging down the track, which was the opening track of Joe’s new album, “Dust Bowl”. Having heard the album prior to the show, I never would have guessed that this effect was coming from a drum set. I’m not sure how they modified the sound, but it was really cool. This was my fifth time seeing Joe (once with Black Country Communion), but my first experience with his new drummer, a gentleman by the name of Tal Bergman. I was very impressed with his playing. He and Joe seemed to have great chemistry as they challenged each other throughout the evening.
I usually don’t get too excited about hearing an artist’s new material, but this is a great album, and Joe is becoming a great song writer. He played two other songs from “Dust Bowl”, including the title track and a fine rendition of Walter Jacobs’ “You Better Watch Yourself”.
He had the crowd’s attention as he played a very emotional version of “Sloe Gin”. Then he proceeded to crank it up with “The Ballad of John Henry”, which is the title track from his breakthrough album that made him the global sensation that he is today. This was the first of three straight songs from that album, and Joe showed the capacity crowd why he’s the new riff king of rock and contemporary blues.
I really love the groove of “Blue and Evil”. It’s definitely my favorite track off the “Black Rock” LP. It’s a great song to play live. The crowd seemed to really enjoy it. I don’t know if it’s intentional, but it seems that Joe likes to work the crowd’s emotions by playing slow and sensitive songs like Warren Haynes’ “If Heartaches Were Nickels” and then jump in your face with The Who’s version of “Young Man Blues”, which really jacked up the crowd.
Joe’s really known for his electric playing, but I must say he’s one of the best acoustic players I’ve ever heard. With the right equipment, almost any electric player can sound good, but the acoustic guitar separates the players from the pretenders. If you could of been in that theatre for those precious ten minutes, you would of been amazed by his acoustic playing on “Woke Up Dreaming”. It was certainly one of his best performances of the evening.
Joe completed his set with a extended version of “Mountain Time”, which brought the crowd to it’s feet. He acknowledged the crowd as he walked off the stage as everyone in attendance cheered loudly with approval, hoping that he would come back out and perform an encore. After a couple of minutes, he did just that.
The encore started out with Leonard Cohen’s “Bird on a Wire”, which could bring a man to tears. It’s like he’s setting us up again for the in your face finale; ZZ Top’s “Just Got Paid”, tastefully wrapped around Jimmy Page’s blistering solo from Led Zeppelin’s “Dazed and Confused”, which is becoming Joe’s signature closing song.
The fans weren’t the only ones getting into it either. The band was steppin’ it up for this one, as the crowd sang along with Billy Gibbons’ lyrics. This was an awesome jam to cap the evening. As the band stood at the front of the stage to take a bow, everyone in the building was on their feet cheering for Joe and his band; thanking them for a wonderful time.
It seems like every time I see Joe, I enjoy him more than I did the previous time. He really has blossomed into a polished performer. If you haven’t seen Joe, I recommend you take the time to do so.
He also plays in a great band called Black Country Communion, which is fronted by former Trapeze and Deep Purple wild man/vocalist/bassist, Glenn Hughes. Add the thundering sound of Jason Bonham (Baby Bonzo) and tie it all together with the keyboard mastery of Derek Sherinian, and you’ve got yourself one power-house band that rivals some of the hard rock bands of the 70s.
I’m grateful that we have artists today that still choose to follow the blues path. Too bad there aren’t more dads showing their kids old Cream videos. Thanks Mr. B.
Dale Varley Sr.