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Joe Bonamassa live at the Royal Albert Hall

Royal Albert Hall 5th April 2024

Joe Bonamassa  headed to the Royal Albert Hall to play two shows - his only tour dates here this year.(Although he is playing at the Black Deer Festival this summer.)

Bonamassa is no stranger to the boards at the Albert Hall, he's probably as familiar with them as his fretboard and he should be: Tonight’s show marks his 12th show at the iconic venue. 

Punctual as ever with the 7.30 start, the lights are low and the band enter the stage together. There's already whoops from the crowd as they make out the shapes of the muscians settling behind their instruments for two hours of electrifying blues rock.

There's usually no support for his shows, tonight is just the same. If you've never been to a Joe Bonamassa gig let me fill you in: he gets on stage, struts his stuff and his playing is so smokin' hot he doesn't need a warm up act. 

Joe is dressed in his typical attire of suit and shades, looking more Wall Street than Beale Street. But we're not here to assess him on his sartorial choices. Suffice to say that by keeping it simple with zero distractions allows the music to speak for itself. Or perhaps it’s a tribute to the original blues men who kept things smart. Either way his look has become part of his stage persona and as recognisable as the music he plays.

He launches into ‘Hope You Realize It’ (sadly without the horn section) followed by the comforting retro sound of ‘Twenty- Four Hour Blues’, both tracks are taken from ‘Blues Deluxe Vol 2’ released last year. 

There's already been some killer solos, the audience are on their feet cheering and we're only two songs in! Smokin' Joe is just getting started with songs like the Pink Floydesque ‘Self Inflicted Wounds’ that features backing vocalist, Jade McCray doing her best to channel Clare Torry - it's spellbinding stuff.

Jimi set his guitars on fire, Prince made love to them and Pete smashed them up.  Joe coaxes them like a magician, running his fingers up and down the neck casting a spell before unleashing the spirit of all the great guitar men who've come before. Eagled eared members of the audience will spot some familiar licks and styles from Dave Gilmore, to Jeff Beck. Joe is a total sponge of music, so it's not surprising that when casting his spell vignettes from the past pop out.

By now there's a woman at the back of the hall that is pratically orgasmic, singing at full volume, cheering in the pin-drop silence. Joe even gives her a shout out as being one of three best singers in the room (the other two being back-up singers - the incredibly talented Jade McCray and Danielle De Andrea)

The band move on to ‘Shout About It’ and another new release, ‘Last Matador of Bayonne’.  Theres plenty of improvisational break outs from Joe, Josh Smith and the sublime Reese Wynans along the way. By the midway point, it's time for Joe to pause and say a few words where he pays tribute to his friend, the late Bernie Marsden. He then introduced the terrific live band, who quite frankly would be worth the entry price alone! 

Lamar Carter, is one of the most soulful and expressive drummers I’ve had the pleasure of seeing. First class bass player, Calvin Turner wears a Reese Wynans tee shirt, which just goes to show the deep respect musicans have for each other. When introducing Wynans, Joe encourages the audience to get on their feet to honour the rock and roll hall of fame inductee. It’s possibly the biggest cheer of the night. 

Then it’s back to business with ‘Heart That Never Waits’. The band continue to cut loose with Josh Smith, Reece and Lamar all given space to let rip before the end of the evening. After a rousing applause the encore of ‘Mountain Time’ and the Cream classic ‘Crossroads’ rounds off show 12 at the Albert Hall. 

I know that sometimes Smokin' Joe gets roasted for being ubiquitous, but the fact that he's a one man music factory shows his dedication to the blues genre. If he's not writing and releasing material, he's working with other musicians. This isn't an ego trip, far from it, this is a musician who has a one track mind on blues music.

His shows are always fun, energetic, unpredictable and awe-inspiring and filled of some of two hours of pretty much wall to wall blues from some of the finest musicians on the planet. 

If you get the chance to see him live you won’t be disappointed. Better still, you can be home and tucked up in bed with your coco by 11pm. How very rock and roll! 

Review by Cathy Clark and Gerry Driver

Photos by Simon Green


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