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  DESPERADO JOE'S BONAFIDE BLUES COMMUNION
Joe Bonamassa: Royal Albert Hall, London

25th April 2017

andy rawll
Words: Andy Rawll, Pictures: Laurence Harvey



joe bonamassa

Sharp suited and sharp shooting rapid-fire blues licks from the very first beat, this was the third time that Joe has headlined this iconic venue and you could tell that he was going to make it count.

Last year's rapturously received tour 'Salute to the British Blues Explosion' had focused on songs by the Faustian trinity of Beck, Page and Clapton. This time around, there's a new album of JoBo originals under the banner of 'Blues Of Desperation', of which a fine selection was unfurled during the first half of the show. Although the Jeff Beck songs from the 2016 tour have been jettisoned to make way for the new material, some of the other songs remained the same, in particular the Eric Clapton career bookends of 'Little Girl' from his early days with John Mayall and 'Pretending' from the later Armani years.

joe bonamassa

The locomotive power of opening track 'The Train' got the show on a roll in emphatic style, with Joe letting off steam with the searing tone of his vintage Strat enveloping Queen Victoria's favourite venue. We were riding the Bonamassa Express and once we were in our seats, there was no stopping for refuelling, leaves on the line or red signals, as the band hurtled onto 'Mainline Florida'. Fuelling the engine was badass bassist Michael Rhodes and dynamite drummer Anton Fig, who more than anyone ensured that the Flying Bluesman train kept on rolling down the track.

As with most of the cover versions tonight, they have been adapted to Joe's sinewy blues-rock style. Whilst, this imbues the eclectic setlist with a cohesion that ensures that energy and momentum and maintained, on certain songs, like Zeppelin's 'Boogie For Stu' it does somewhat suppress the inimitable character of the original.

joe bonamassa

Whereas, Joe's earlier solo releases mixed covers and original songs, his own song-writing chops have evolved significantly, as evidenced by his last two releases consisting entirely of self-penned or co-written material, particularly those with acclaimed Nashville musician James House. Of the five new songs aired, 'Blues Of Desperation' had a fantastic free-form feel to it and 'Good Place For The Lonely' was a slow-burn highlight, especially when his gorgeous Goldtop was summoned to sing atop the Double Trouble choral organ swells of Reece Wynans. 'How Deep This River Runs' flowed beautifully with rippling guitars and swelled by the torrential backing vocals of Jade MacRae and the awesome Mahalia Barnes, who certainly lives up to the name that Jimmy and Jane gave her.

As a renown collector of vintage guitars, at times the gig felt like a six-string beauty pageant, with Joe parading the beautiful bodies and caressing the necks of exquisite examples of guitar-hood, from Firebirds to Flying Vs, and Les Pauls to Fender 'Casters, Strat and Tele. Joe's love of guitars appears to extend to his stage-wear, with a suit with the showroom gleam of a factory fresh Les Paul Custom and wood-brown shoes that appear to perfectly accessorise with the maple and mahogany necks of his harem of six-string mistresses.

joe bonamassa

The set was perfectly paced with plentiful light and shade between the tender balladry of 'Love Ain't A Love Song' and the bombast of 'How Many More Times', yet it was very much a fully-plugged, solid-bodied set, even on the traditionally unplugged 'Black Winter' instrumental. I found this a little surprising as the much-anticipated all-acoustic 'Live at Carnegie Hall' video is confirmed for release on 23rd June 2017 and available for pre-order now.

This time around, there was no room for the familiar tonic of 'Sloe Gin' or 'Ballad Of John Henry', but neither were really missed, given that a dirty and gritty version of 'Dust Bowl' sated the audiences desire for one of his older solo tracks. Joe was back, packing a Strat for this one and yet again his desert-hot overdriven tube sound was superbly enhanced by the duelling horn-smithery of much-trumpeted Lee Thornburg and saxy Paulie Cerra.

joe bonamassa

The heavy-hitting home-run of Zeppelin's 'How Many More Times' ramped up the response of the rammed venue a further few notches, bringing the audience to the feet for a final ringing endorsement of Joe Bonamassa's undoubted mastery of the fretted form. His style may not be as mercurial as Gary Moore or his melodic mastery as keen as Eric Johnson, but he's already earned a seat at the high-table of great blues-rock guitarists while still in his 30s, which is simply remarkable.

His dedication to his craft, his respect for the source code of the blues genre and his appetite to collaborate mark him out as an artist who will continue to, in the words of hasty philosopher Neil Peart, elevate him far above the norm.

joe bonamassa

Whereas his guitar playing is beyond reproach, his vocals perhaps have yet to reach their apotheosis. Over the last few years, they have acquired a wonderfully rich timbre, which combined with stunning effect with Glenn Hughes' voice on the Black Communion albums and sound wonderful on the slower songs. Yet, on the louder songs, the vocal tone is great, but there's a lack of articulation of the lyrics, which means that at times, although it sounded superb, it was hard to follow the lyrics, even though it was very clear that he most definitely woke up this morning and has still got the blues.

In deference to the now departed great BB King, whose last UK show was on the same stage in 2011, the sole encore to tonight's electric storm of blues guitar was a raucous yet reverential cover of 'Hummingbird', the Leon Russell song, which King popularised and which one of our English Kings of Guitar, Jimmy Page, so memory covered (with Chris Farlowe) on his 'Outrider' album.

joe bonamassa

Overall, this was a bonafide explosion of contemporary blues, which blitzed the cavernous expanse of this iconic venue. With the 10th anniversary of his first headline show at the venue, Joe confirmed that a celebratory show in 2019 had already been booked. Now that's forward planning and perhaps also an indication, that he may well be busy with the reunited Black Country Communion, who's fabled fourth album is earmarked for release later this year. Very, very good news indeed.

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Setlist:
This Train
Mainline Florida
Mountain Climbing
Blues Of Desperation
No Good Place For The Lonely
How Deep This River Runs
Boogie With Stu
Never Make Your Move Too Soon
Angel Of Mercy
Love Ain't A Love Song
Dust Bowl
Little Girl
Pretending
Black Winter/Django
How Many More Times
Hummingbird

Catch Joe Bonamassa on tour her: 26th April: Lille, Zenith
28th April: Antwerp, Lotto Arena
29th April: Amsterdam, Ziggo Dome
30th April: Zurich, Hallenstadion
2nd May: Dijon, Zenith
4th May: Paris, Palais De Congres
5th May: Stuttgart, Porsche-Arena
6th May: Münster, MCC Halle Münsterland
8th May: Baden-Baden, Festspielhaus
10th May: Hamburg, Barclaycard Arena
12th May: Düsseldorf, Mitsubishi Electric HALLE
13th May: Bremerhaven, Stadthalle Bremerhaven
14th May: Hannover, Swiss Life Hall (ehem. AWD Hall)
16th May: Freiburg im Breisgau, Sick-Arena – Messe Freiburg
17th May: Ravensburg, Oberschwabenhalle
19th May: Leipzig, Arena Leipzig
20th May: München, Olympiahalle





WACKEN WINTER NIGHTS IS HEAVY METAL WONDERLAND

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

WACKEN 2018 TRAVEL PACKAGE ENQUIRY

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