There’s almost an irony about Joe Bonamassa livestream coming from Austin, Texas, which in the late ‘80s was coined ‘live music capital of the world’ by Austin Music Network’s Ronnie Mack, before officially being designated as such in 1991.
Quite how many of those clubs will survive the pandemic remains to be seen, but Joe Bonamassa has certainly done his bit, as evidenced by the advertorial intro to his live stream, which illustrates just how hard he has worked to keep his chosen profession alive.
And hard work and planning is what lies at the core of a show that finds Bonamassa going back to his early career power trio format. In fact, it’s actually a power quartet with the significant additional presence of Australian vocalist Jade Macrae, who brings extra depth to the harmonies as well as providing an occasional site line for the guitarist as he rips into one of many guitar solos.
Tonight he has to work hard to make a connection with 700 socially distanced people in a big room. For the most of the evening they sound like the equivalent of a desk tape recording.
It’s tough task to pull off and one that requires an extra shot of energy to make a meaningful connection.
He seems to have that in mind as he’s swapped his usual formal suit for a blue floral number and seems pleased to engage his audience in moments of offhand banter, while occasionally pausing for a response that we can’t always hear.
Either way, he revels in the stripped down format relying on his undiminished musical chops and forceful personality, as evidenced by the telling line on the outstanding Theremin inflected ‘Look Out Man!’ “Look out man, I’m a force of nature.”
And he certainly is that, driving the band through a well balanced set list, of which ‘Love Ain’t A Love Song’, the afore mentioned ‘Lookout Man!’ and the early career ‘Love You, Hate You,’ provide magical moments when he seems to inhabit his former self.
He introduces the latter with a humorous autobiographical intro, telling us the song is about an early relationship with a platonic girlfriend in which: “life became grey…. like uncured cement.”
He unravels his stinging reflective lyrics round a Southern rock intro and an exquisite solo over Steve Mackey’s pulsing bass, all neatly wrapped by Anton Fig’s unrelenting drive on the sticks.
There’s a moment in his mesmerising solo around the 1 hour 37 minute mark, where he makes an essential connection with his subject matter.
The key to it all is the way he builds his set from the ground up, opening with the hard-riffed dirge and contrasting scorching runs of ‘Oh Beautiful!’ and the magnificent kick-ass funk of ‘Love Ain’t A Love Song’ with its wonderful refrain.
He takes a couple of steps forward to the lip of the stage to deliver a ripping solo of effortless intensity, counterweighted by some deft light and shade, leading to a suitably climactic finish.
At this point there’s still much to do in terms of sparking his socially distanced crowd and ma make for an exciting DVD audio visual experience.
He does so, on ‘Beyond The Silence’, which showcases both his songcraft – it could easily fit a Cohen Brothers movie – and his high octane, stop-start jamming with his doughty rhythm section. Only a rather abrupt return to a final verse mars another highlight.
He’s in impressive harmony mode with Jade McRae on a cover of Tom Waits’ ‘Jockey Full Of Bourbon’, while he has to the rescue the slightly ponderous ‘Wandering Earth’ with a scintillating guitar burst.
He’s in his power trio element on the Hendrix influenced ‘Pain And Sorrow’, which rocks hard with a beautiful toned flighty solo and makes you realise just how much his song writing has improved over the last 2 decades.
Being in Austin, he suitably pays tribute to SRV with a celebratory version of ‘Scuttle Buttin’, before a return to his Brit blues predilection with an exquisite ‘Blues Deluxe’ on which he lets every note resonate.
The audience finally makes itself heard after his opening vocal line, as he explores the intricate dynamics of the Beck and Stewart classic.
He rounds things off with the Zeppelin influenced, pile driver ‘The Ballad Of John Henry’ on which Macrae adds some echo-laden vocal gymnastics.
Joe extends the song with an ethereal guitar and Theremin which gives it a space rock feel and finishes it with a gutsy buzz saw toned solo.
His audience stand up as one and hit the floor totally forgetting about social distancing.
He switches to acoustic for the frenetic ‘Woke Up Dreaming’, the first of a well deserved 2 song encore. He then finally switches to a red Gibson SG on the tub thumping ‘Cross Road Blues’.
Suffice it to say, that by the end of the show things feel normal again in the rock-blues firmament.
The fact that Bonamassa pulls it off under such adverse circumstances speaks volumes for the man and his dedication to the music he loves.
Review Pete Feenstra
Photos by Allison Morgan
The latest Facebook Live session from Canadian singer-songwriter Josh Taerk Sunday 21 March 16:00 EST, 21:00 GMT
David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 14 March 2021 and includes the Top 10 albums at www.getreadytorock.com for that week.
UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 23 March 2021.
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Featured Albums w/c 5 April 2021 (Mon-Fri)
09:00-12:00 GARY HUGHES Decades (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 METALITE A Virtual World (AFM Records)
14:00-16:00 KAT DANSER One Eye Open (indie)
Power Plays w/c 5 April 2021 (Mon-Fri)
ALTZI Point Of No Return (RA Music)
DIRTY LACES Breathe (Golden Robot Records)
ASHEN MOON Ashen Moon (Golden Robot Records)
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JORDAN RED Freak Show (indie)
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