Provogue [Release date 02.10.15]
In the fullness of time Joe Bonamassa ‘Live at Radio City Music Hall’ will be recognized as a career milestone for the kid who grew up in Syracuse, New York, dreaming of the time he might one day play the five and half thousand capacity venue.
The half unplugged, half electric DVD/CD marks him out as a mature performer, a great guitarist, an astute band leader and a far better singer than he was a few years ago.
His music has developed as well. Where once he dipped into the past to recycle classic blues-rock and help forge his own style, he’s now confident enough bring a Celtic feel to his acoustic to arrangements with the humorously titled The Huckleberries.
The subtle interplay between Joe’s acoustic, Gerry O’Connor’s mandolin and Mats Wester’s mandola brings a fresh dynamic to ‘Dust Bowl’, while Mats bows a Nyckelharpa alongside Reese Wynans’s signature piano line to highlight the melodic strength of ‘Different Shades of Blue’.
Despite a comment in the bonus film about worrying about getting it right on the night, the real task Joe sets himself is to overcome the cavernous setting and make a connection with both his audience and the home viewer.
To that end, you can imagine the painstaking pre-preparation ranging from the band’s stage set up (filmed in high speed on the bonus video), to the various camera angles and different venue backdrops that help capture a moment.
Radio City Music Hall brings it own challenges and Joe opts to cut down the space in the old fashioned way, by reaching out to the crowd with several introductions and he even brings on his mum to celebrate her birthday.
Producer Philippe Klose’s makes frequent use of split and quadruple screens to capture those moments when band members gel seamlessly, though at one point during the Hammond solo of ‘Love Ain’t A Love Song’, bass player Carmine Rojas manages to appear in two of the 4 screens.
Ultimately, its Klose’s attention to detail that gives the film the kind of essential dynamic that was missing on the outdoor ‘‘Muddy Wolf at Red Rocks’ DVD.
Musically Joe in his element, whether on the acoustic slide duet with percussionist Lenny Castro on ‘Black Lung Heartache’ or when he hits the crashing chord that announces the electric band on ‘Never Give All Your Heart’, a song notable for its intense resolution.
He similarly adds an incendiary solo to the snappy horn arrangement of ‘Hidden Charms’, while ‘Living On The Moon’ benefits from the full force of the horn section.
He struggles to bring Muddy Waters style gravitas to ‘I Can’t Be Satisfied, but he is magnificent on ‘Double Trouble’ as he dramatically extends a finger to connect with both the song and the crowd, before soloing expansively.
The funky and percussive ‘Love Ain’t A Love Song’, is a real highlight, from the stabbed horns to Joe’s animated vocal and a lovely riff that leads into the hook and the climactic finish.
There’s a slight glitch on the DVD as the guitar nearly falls out of the mix on the intro to ‘I Gave Up Everything For You, ‘Cept the Blues’. Happily, it’s rectified on the CD and Joe adds one of his best vocals and finishes with some Lonnie Mack style string bends.
The soulful ballad ‘So, What Would I Do?’ is a stylistic departure, but it’s wholly in keeping with the emotion of the occasion and provides a weighty finish.
The bonus DVD focuses on the crew and the concert set up, but picks up interest when Joe and his parents dip into the Bonamassa musical heritage – which he notes stretches back nearly 100 years – and they even open the doors to their home.
There’s also face to the camera interview in Kevin Shirley’s studio, as Joe shares some insight into his past and present, including the fact that he doesn’t know 95% of the current Grammy Award nominees. You would you expect nothing less from of a true blues man! ****
Review by Pete Feenstra
Pete Feenstra presents his Rock & Blues Show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Tuesday at 19:00 GMT, and “The Pete Feenstra Feature” on Sundays at 19:00
JOE BONAMASSA – OCTOBER 2015 UK TOUR DATES
Wednesday Oct 21 – Newcastle Metro Arena
Friday Oct 23 – Liverpool Echo Arena
Saturday Oct 24 – Leeds First Direct Arena
Sunday Oct 25 – Nottingham Capital FM Arena
Tuesday Oct 27 – Cardiff Motorpoint Arena
Wednesday Oct 28 – Bournemouth BIC
Friday Oct 30 – Brighton Centre
Saturday Oct 31 (SOLD OUT) – Brighton Centre
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