It was nice to finally check out the guitar player
and singer, Joe Bonamassa (1977 – ), and I’m sure that
I could have done worse than the two-DVD set
that I recently watched. “Joe Bonamassa: Live From
the Royal Albert Hall,” was taped and released
during 2009. I’d also seen him in an acoustic setting
approximately one week earlier on the PBS special,
“An Acoustic Evening at the Vienna Opera House,”
which was released earlier this year (2013).
While the performance taped at the Vienna Opera
House was definitely worth watching, and showcased
Bonamassa’s abilities along with four of his fellow
musicians, most of the songs performed during the
Royal Albert Hall concert were penned by Bonamassa,
providing a greater variety of music than the Vienna gig.
This was clearly an important event, and the
producers of these DVDs spared no expense in terms
of production values. The running time for the set
was approximately 130 minutes, with a 56-minute
Disc One and a 75-minute Disc Two.
Both DVDs featured brief interview clips, childhood
photos, and a conversation with Bonamassa’s parents.
Bonus features on Disc Two included a 10-minute,
acoustic version of “Woke Up Dreaming,” which
was inexplicably missing from the main concert,
and a 23-minute, tour bus interview with
Bonamassa using his Les Paul guitar and
Marshall practice amp.
Interestingly, Bonamassa used two drummers
during the Royal Albert Hall concert, along with
a keyboardist and a bass guitarist. A horn section
featured players on trombone, tenor saxophone
and trumpet, thereby adding sonic richness. I didn’t
feel that the two drummers were necessary.
I believe that one drummer would have sufficed;
however, they had a good sound. It appeared
that most of their playing was in unison. Obviously,
Bonamassa wanted a “full” drum sound.
The keyboardist and bassist both gave fine
performances, although the bass sound was
somewhat booming and lacking in definition.
At the end of the concert, Bonamassa was joined
onstage by one of his “inspirations,” Eric Clapton,
who played his Stratocaster for their rendition of
“Further on Up the Road,” a 12-bar Blues standard.
Bonamassa and his band also performed a brief
tribute to Led Zeppelin by jamming on a part of
“Dazed and Confused,” with Bonamassa playing
a Gibson Flying V.
There is no doubt that Bonamassa is an exceptional
player; he has played professionally since he was
about 12-years old. He has recorded and played
with many famous musicians, over the past
several years. Although the Les Paul guitar seemed
to be his instrument of choice, he frequently
switched instruments during the concert, and at one
point played the aforementioned Gibson Flying V.
Bonamassa has made a thorough study of the Blues
in its various forms. In fact, even the songs that
weren’t “out and out” Blues numbers appeared to
be inflected by Blues stylings. I’d describe his
playing and compositions as “Blues for the Masses,”
in that they seem to be geared toward reaching
a broad audience, in contrast with the more
uncompromising Blues stylings of Stevie Ray Vaughan
(1954-1990). Of course, Vaughan did what he
did very well!
Bonamassa is no less a master in his own right,
and plays like someone who loves his instrument(s).
For me, the most impressive demonstrations of his
abilities occurred during the aforementioned bonus
disc interview, wherein he illustrated various points
with amazing licks and passages on his Les Paul
guitar, at a low volume. He has an awesome technique!
This was a generous concert, which I’m sure left
the audience quite satisfied. It was a first-class
production, which I can truly recommend. Personally,
I’d like to see Bonamassa perform under less
“crowd-pleasing” circumstances, which aren’t
obviously rehearsed “to a T.” How about a
performance in a more intimate venue with
just a bass and drums? In other words, with
him playing with a greater sense of risk alongside
equally talented players? Now, THAT I’d like to see!
Nevertheless, this is a fine DVD set, and I’ll make
an effort to follow the career of this talented
player. By the way, his singing isn’t bad, either!