26 April 2019 (gig)
28 April 2019
This was the third of three sold out shows at the grand dame of London venues and the capacity crowd were more than satisfied with a set that covered many of his different phases as a live performer.
In short, a tour de force and Bonamassa’s charisma meant that you couldn’t take your eyes off him.
He tore off with a blistering version of Muddy Waters classic ‘I’ll Put A Tiger In Your Tank’ with a steaming solo and then into his own ‘King Bee Shakedown’ with the horns braying out the riff alongside his guitar and then to ‘Evil Mama’. All these were played at frantic pace but never felt as though they were being rushed. Even though Bonamassa never said a word to the audience through these three numbers, your eyes were drawn to the man in front with the suit, slicked back hair and impenetrable shades – Joe Bonamassa just exudes a sense of identity and the crowd focus on him like moths to a flame.
‘Self Inflicted Wounds’ slowed the music down, allowing the crowd to take a breath but increasing the intensity of the music and from there on he began to call out the occasional “How’re Ya Doing” between numbers, increasing his connection to the crowd while not exactly being voluble. I doubt the crowd minded, they just wanted to hear more of the wonderful music pouring off the stage.
‘Blues Of Desperation was epic, his guitar screaming in parts and that Zeppelin-esque delivery of the song getting people up and dancing all over the stalls and arena floor.
As soon as the opening piano line of ‘Sloe Gin’ was played a huge ripple of applause went through the crowd and Joe delivered with an incredibly sensitive reading of this epic number. His vocals were soft and emotional and his guitar hit just about every heartstring out there.
He finally talked to the crowd, explaining his history at the Royal Albert Hall and describing his nerves when he first played there 10 years ago before introducing a special guest with the line “Oh shit, it’s Bernie Marsden”. The two of them kicked up the tempo again with ‘I Get Evil’ assisted by Marsden who played a stunning solo of his own.
The main set ended with ‘Last Kiss’, the tempo and the intensity ratcheting up to an awesome climax.
Inevitably, he was back for a few encores including the monumental ‘Mountain Time’ which had the whole crowd up and either clapping or dancing or both.
His band were terrific throughout the show, Reese Wynans on keyboards and Anton Fig on drums really top notch and now that the horn section and ‘ladies of the chorus’ are thoroughly bedded in he sounds completely comfortable with the effect they have on the music.
I’ve been lucky enough to follow Joe Bonamassa from the early days and this show felt as though he has hit a peak as a performer that very few attain. One hell of a night.
Picture by Laurence Harvey