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London, Hammersmith Apollo
22nd October 2011

Pics: Jerry Tremaine


It's hard to believe it was only a few years back that blues maestro Joe Bonamassa was playing the tiny Borderline here in the capital. A night when I foolishly walked past the venue because my date for the night had never heard of him, so we opted to go for a few drinks next door in the Crobar instead.


It's unlikely that we will ever get to see Bonamassa play a headline show in a small club again. He has enmassed a growing, dedicated following after a string of solo albums, also winning over some rock fans who would not normally get involved in the blues scene after seeing him in the supergroup Black Country Communion. All of this means that Bonamassa can now headline two nights at the prestigious Hammersmith Apollo... (Oh! All right then, the 'Hammy O'.

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Tonight, the man in shades has surrounded himself with another supergroup. Tal Bergman, who in the past has worked with Billy Idol and Rod Stewart, is a powerhouse of a drummer who, at times, makes the floorboards of Hammersmith shudder with his endless thumping. Carmine Rojas provides some solid chunky bass, and it's no surprise that David Bowie used him in the 'Let's Dance'/'Blue Jean' period, and countless other major stars require his services.

Little is known about keyboardist Rick Melick, who does a fine job and, from where I'm sitting upstairs in the circle, looks like Captain Sensible with his brightly-coloured shirt and what looks like a beret on his head (though I later discover my eyesight's somewhat lacking, as it's actually a bowler hat).


Joe Bonamassa coolly walks onstage at the beginning of the gig and stands on a red patterned rug holding aloft a tattered '61 Strat guitar. There's something very special about this one, as it was the very guitar used all the time by departed Irish blues legend Rory Gallagher. With this, Bonamassa launches into a rocking 'Cradle Rock', and then continues to play Rory's Strat for the first three numbers of the night.

Seeing Bonamassa with that work of history in his talented arms makes me realise how fortunate I am to have seen Rory Gallagher live at the East Anglian Rock & Blues Festival way back in 1989, bizarrely held at Mildenhall Speedway Track, and this brought back many fond memories for me.

We recently lost another rocking blues great in Gary Moore, and Bonamassa excels himself with some flying work on Moore's 'Midnight Blues', which has an intro which reminds me of Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac. Bonamassa is making full use of the stage and happily shows off his skills to those down the front by standing at the front of the stage when doing some serious axe work. His voice is improving all the time too and, like Gary Moore, will in time sing with a whole lot more emotion.


'Slow Train', 'Sloe Gin' and 'John Henry' are the highlights of the night. One Black Country Communion number is included, namely 'Song Of Yesterday', which includes a riveting extended solo. Bonamassa takes his time to invite a few friends up onstage. Joining him for 'Gimme One Reason' and 'Blues Deluxe' are former Whitesnake blues slinger Bernie Marsden and a young seventeen-year old lassie from Scotland called Eilidh McKellar who, according to Bonamassa, has been informed that she's better than him. McKellar is cool as a cucumber onstage and, no doubt, we will we be hearing a whole lot more about her in the future.

After swapping his many Gibsons for an acoustic on 'Woke Up Dreaming' it's soon encore time with another added guest, Sandi Thom, as they perform a pleasing cover of Leonard Cohen's 'Bird On A Wire'. This is followed by the sign of the Flying V on ZZ Top's 'Just Got Paid', with some dazzling and confusing sounds on the theremin with a snatch of Led Zep.

Bonamassa is a new god for a new generation.

Set list:

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
Gimme One Reason
Blues Deluxe
Young Man Blues
Woke Up Dreaming
Mountain Time


Bird On A Wire
Just Got Paid/ Dazed And Confused


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Wacken Winter Nights 2018 takes place between February 23rd and 25th 2018 and the great news is that you can now experience a full-on, top class German Metal Festival easily and affordably.

It only takes an hour to fly to Hamburg from London and we've had longer journeys than that within the capital and they were certainly more expensive than the £33 air ticket that just appeared in our 'flights to Wacken Winter Nights' search.


Wacken Winter Nights is organised by the same team who are responsible for the world's greatest Metal festival, Wacken-Open-Air and the 2018 bill includes Skyclad, Orphaned Land, Elvenking, Finntroll, Grave Digger, Aeverium, Comes Vagantes, Coppelius, Corvus Corax, Die Pressgëng, Elvellon, Heimataerde, Hell-O-Matic, Ignis Fatuu, Ingrimm, Irdorath, Johnny Deathshadow, Krayenzeit, Letzte Instanz, Mr Hurley und die Pulveraffen, Pampatut, Pat Razket, Schandmaul, Sündenrausch, The Aberlour's, The Moon And The Nightspirit, Torfrock, Visions Of Atlantis, Vroudenspil, Wind Rose and more.

Besides this rich billing of superb Metal bands, there is so much more to see in the festival area including the medieval market and also the walking acts and jugglers you will meet at the theme worlds, including Robert Blake, three-time World Cup winner of street magic.

Wacken Winter Nights is something not to be missed and you can check out the amazing ticket and accommodation prices right here.

We just priced up the whole four day trip with hotels, flights, shuttles and festival tickets for less than £300 and we don't think you will get a better value festival than that, anywhere.


MetalTalk recently sat down with Wacken founder and owner Thomas Jensen and that interview will be online next week and it's a fascinating insight into how Wacken originated from nothing to become the world's premiere Heavy Metal event.


Wacken 2018 takes place from 2nd to 4th August 20218 and as with Wacken Winter Nights, if you have never experienced all it has to offer, then you owe it to yourself to remedy that.

Already announced for Wacken 2018 are Judas Priest, Nightwish, Running Wild (exclusive), Arch Enemy, Dirkschneider, Doro (Special Anniversary Show), In Extremo, Sepultura, Amorphis, Amaranthe, Firewind, W.A.R., Belphegor, Mantar, Knorkator, Deserted Fear, Watain, Night Demon, Epica, Knorkator, Belphegor, Firewind, Deserted Fear and many more and we'll have more Wacken 2018 announcements during December.

As well as being the greatest Heavy Metal festival in the world, it is without a doubt the Mecca of Metal and the one thing that every single person who loves our music should have on their bucket list.

For 2018, MetalTalk have joined forces with Wacken-Open-Air to help you get to Wacken easily and inexpensively and you can peruse the ticket and travel options right here.

If you are interested in going to Wacken 2018 and have questions, please fill out the form below and we will contact you with answers to all your enquiries. You are under no obligation whatsoever by filling this form out. We won't add you to any mailing lists or send you loads of spam - all we will do is help you get to Wacken as easily and inexpensively as possible.



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