Joe goes back to basics for his live stream
1st April 2021 Austin City Limits
Photos by Allison Morgan
In those halcyon days before social distancing, face coverings and lockdowns, Joe Bonamassa was already a prolific touring machine, releasing albums, jamming with friends, producing, you name it. He was never going to let something as huge as a global pandemic stop him. You have to admire his tireless dedication to his craft and his overriding altruism: not only is he a generous individual when working with musicians and bringing the best out of them, but he is also driven by a genuine desire to help others achieve their full potential.
The pandemic has hit the entertainment industry hard, but it has also been an opportunity for Joe to use his platform to continue helping his fellow musos, the ones that need the exposure, the ones who need to tour relentlessly in order to survive. This latest live stream does just that and aims to raise money for the Fueling Musicians programme helping those musicians who are desperately in need.
The intimate show is back to basics for Joe, but it's a reminder that behind all the window dressing of stadium shows – the music is what it's all about. Joe and his Power Quartet (Steve Mackey on bass, Jade MacRae on backing vocals, Anton Fig on drums) bring us an intimate gig streamed from Austin City Limits studio. The setlist was curated by fans and offers a selection of staples and rarities.
Although there's not a full band set up and you think you're going to desperately miss the roar of Reese Wynan's keys, that feeling soon subsides. There are plenty of meaty blues licks and Hendrix inspired runs galore. The Power Quartet really do what they say and create a wealth of atmosphere and sound and many of these songs on the set really benefit from the stripped back version, allowing the space in between to really shine.
'Oh Beautiful' and a punchy performance of 'Love Ain't A Love Song' start the show with an impossibly high bar, leaving the bluesman seemingly with not much space to go higher. Of course, with Joe Bonamassa's shows, infinity is the baseline and beyond means going musically stratospheric.
Covers of Gary Moore, Robert Johnson and Stevie Ray Vaughn all feature in this fan led set. A cover of Jeff Beck's 'Blues De Luxe' dusts off a rare live track, with just the sort of intergalactic turbo boost that leaves lesser guitar players standing open-mouthed.
'The Ballad of John Henry' gives us some of Joe's heavier playing from the 2009 album of the same name, no doubt inspired by producer Kevin Shirley of Iron Maiden fame. It's a powerful track that alone is worth the set time. Not only does Joe give a nod to the Lord of Darkness, Jimmy Page in the way he's dressed, but the theremin screech during this track are many of the sets nods to Led Zep. Of course, they took the blues and spun it their way, and Joe is doing the same.
Like Page, Joe can be a showman, but also an expressive and tender player as 'Pain and Sorrow' will demonstrate. He's also adept at being a musical conduit, channelling blues masters and axemen extraordinaire from throughout history. Of course, Joe has now become one of them too and this incendiary live set proves why.
Photos by Allison Morgan