Joe Bonamassa is officially the hardest working man in music. Blues, rock, acoustic, duets, tributes and a supergroup, he does it all, and tonight we are treat to his tribute to the British Blues Explosion of the mid to late 60’s and early 70’s, featuring him tipping his hat to his heroes – the likes of Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton and John Mayall.
The venue is sold out and the stage is set. With punters paying decent money for a ticket, there’s a massive degree of anticipation from the (slightly older than expected) audience.
Unlike some of the of the shows on the tour, there’s no support, so at just after 8pm Joe strides onto the stage and starts to belt out the opening chords of “Beck’s Bolero”. Not pausing for breath we are taken straight into “Mainline Florida” from Clapton’s “461 Ocean Boulevard” Album (one of my favourites). Joe then takes a bit of time to wax lyrical about the tunes that he’s playing and the influences that they’ve had on him.
We are then treated to Led Zepp’s “Boogie with Stu” and a cheeky Jeff Beck Triple in “Let Me Love You Baby”, “Plynth” and “Spanish Boots”.
A few band introductions break up the set (Joe’s band being a 5 piece band not the normal trio plus keyboards) before we get our first John Mayall number “ Double Crossing Time”. Joe’s band are very tight and his playing is effortless and precise, a blur of fingers and frets that mesmerises the audience.
Here lies a slight anomaly in that the crowd is unusually quiet. There is rapturous applause at the end of each song but normally at Joe’s shows there are wisecracks from the audience and a cheeky response from Joe himself. Maybe the slightly older audience is in awe at the playing or are simply paying so much attention to the songs that they forget to retort in the normal fashion. The all-seater arena could be the reason for this but with no one allowed to the front due to the over officious security, it certainly takes a bit away from the night.
Jeff Beck songs take a back seat as the show rumbles on in slick fashion with Clapton’s “Motherless Children” & “Pretending”, Cream’s “SWLABR”, John Mayall’s “Little Girl” and Led Zepp’s “I Can’t Quit You baby”, “White Summer/Black Mountain Side” and the final track “ “How Many More Times”.
The show is intense and in your face and is a masterclass by a bluesman at his peak.
Joe returns for an encore, and announces to the audience that seeing as it’s been five years since he’s played in Glasgow he’ll better play one of his own songs… and we are treated to the classic “Sloe Gin”. The mood of the audience changes totally with people leaving their seats and rushing to the front. Maybe it’s the cheeky song intro or simply the fact that the audience wanted to show their appreciation of the show but it was a marked change in the atmosphere, as if someone said, “Right, the serious stuff’s over, lets have some fun!”
Joe Bonamassa is certainly the leading talent in multi-genre guitar playing and, on this evening’s performance, it will be very interesting to see where he decides to point his talents next. I doubt I’ll be the only one waiting with bated breath.
All photos by Gavin Lowrey.