Concert Review: Joe Bonamassa in New York

by Michael Rampa

joebonamassa_perform1In the first 20 minutes of his show at New York’s Beacon Theater, Joe Bonamassa had broken a string and had a few people were dancing in the aisles while he shredded through the first five songs. That’s nothing new, except he hadn’t even strapped on the Les Paul yet. The 2013 tour opens with an acoustic mini set featuring two covers; Bad Company’s Seagull and Charlie Mingus’s Jelly Roll. Even if the songs were unfamiliar to some, the blazing runs, foot stomping beat and frenetic energy were trademark. Only this time, they were coming from a hollowed out wooden guitar. Generally not known for his vocals, he was forced to sing to the rafters in a venue famous for its perfect acoustics. His voice showcased well without the accompaniment of power chords and the heavy sustain of the Gibson.

After Woke Up Dreaming, the halogen spots burned from behind drummer Tal Bergman. Bonamassa entered stage left wielding the Bona-Byrd to the chug of Slow Train. It was time to buckle up for blues Bonamonster style. The Les Paul came out next for the haunting intro of Dust Bowl and he stayed on the gas for the remainder of the set. Warren Haynes took the stage for a few songs including a scorching version of Crossroads that featured a full on speed duel with Bonamassa. The winner was too close to call. Only Who’s Been Talking made the set list from the new album. With a three night stint and a promise of three different shows, new material was bound to be sparse.

The two hours plus was thematically diverse. With Bergman’s athletic drumming, It occasionally felt like a hybrid of classic 1970s rock and metal’s heyday in the Eighties. Django is performed so high up on the frets, it is almost symphonic.

He closed it out with The Ballad of John Henry to a raucous standing ovation. Everyone stayed on their feet for an energetic encore that included ZZ Top’s Just Got Paid. His demographic seems to be changing as audiences are becoming familiar with him beyond the PBS specials where he gained his initial notoriety.

Bonamassa was once asked about being a rock star. He replied, “I’m not a rock star. I don’t dress the part or want to be anything like that. I just want to be a guitar player and always have been.”  Guess he’ll just have to settle for “Guitar God.” On that, the fans seem to agree.

For more, visit jbonamassa.com

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