Feature: Gigs of the Millennium – JOE BONAMASSA

In June 2016 Joe Bonamassa trod the boards at the venue where – nearly over 50 years earlier – the Fab Four had fired their opening salvo.  This historic gig has become one of life’s highlights for GRTR! reviewer Alan Jones…

Joe Bonamassa - The Cavern, Liverpool, 27 June 2016

There are certain things that happen in your life that, as they’re happening in front of you, you know are going to be seared into your memory until you shuffle off this mortal coil and join the choir invisible.

One such was the gig at Liverpool’s famous (although it’s not on its original site) Cavern Club by probably the world’s finest blues/rock guitar player, Joe Bonamassa.

I’d seen him a few times previously – twice at the now (sadly) defunct Pacific Road venue in Birkenhead in 2006 and 2008 and at the Venue Cymru stadium in Llandudno, North Wales.

The gigs at Pacific Road were very special, especially the second one as it was obvious to all present that this guy was destined for great things – he’d knocked off some of the rough edges from the first gig, upped his playing intensity and was far more engaging with the audience.

Joe Bonamassa - Pacific Road, Birkenhead, 2008

The Llandudno gig confirmed our predictions, as by the early 2010’s he’d hit paydirt with sell-out stadiums everywhere and a huge following eager to catch the “new Clapton”.

Once again the gig was excellent, but, as is often the case with these large venues, the acoustics weren’t everything they could have been and, as usual, there were far too many arseholes having over-indulged at the bars spoiling it for everyone.

So imagine my delight when I managed to get access for GRTR! at an “invitation only” gig at the iconic Cavern – limited to 350 ‘real’ fans.

Joe’s reasons for appearing at such a small venue were threefold – one: as a warm-up gig for a stadium tour for the ‘British Blues Explosion’ project, two: as a thank-you to those fans local to Merseyside who had helped set him on his way and three: who wouldn’t want to cement their place in history at the place where it all started? In Joe’s case, that was literally cementing his place as he had his brick added to the ‘Wall Of Fame’ in Mathew Street…

Joe Bonamassa - The Cavern Club, Liverpool, 27 June 2016

As for the gig itself, well you can read my full review but suffice to say it was was almost an out-of-body experience to see such a talent so close up and personal.

The sharp suit had been left in its bag – jettisoned for jeans and a Cavern Club T-shirt and the rather stand-offishness of the big venues giving way to an artist truly engaged with his rapt audience.

I’ve seen many hundreds of gigs in my time but few have affected me in the way this one did – the sheer intensity of his playing in a steaming hot venue, the superb musicianship of the band (especially ex-SRV keysman Reece Wynans and top-drawer drummer Anton Fig) combined with a bouncing, yet reverential audience made this evening one of the highlights of my life.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard a guitar solo like he played on John Mayall’s ‘Double Crossing Time’ and to finish the gig with a superb rendition of The Fab’s ‘Taxman’ was pure class.

Everyone there was shaking their head on the way out – had they really witnessed that?

Yes, they had – and I’m sure they all felt, as I did, we’ll never see anything that good again.

As I exited onto Mathew Street I checked my phone to see that England had lost to Iceland and were out of the Euros.  I couldn’t have cared less…

Gig review

Photos: Steve Goudie

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Next session: Sunday 23 May, 21:00 GMT and 16:00 EST

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