May 14, 2015 Joe Bonamassa brings the Blues to Phoenix, AZ 4-30-15
Keeping the Blues alive comes easy for New Hartford, New York’s Joe Bonamassa, a guitar prodigy who opened up for none other than B.B. King at the age of twelve. Bonamassa has released fifteen solo albums, eleven of which reached #1 on the Billboard Blues charts. This Rock-n-Blues genius has played alongside some legendary artists throughout his career, including Stephen Stills, Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, Steve Winwood and Derek Trucks. Bonamassa’s career highlights include performances at the Royal Albert Hall, his 2014 studio album Different Shades of Blue that debuted at #8 on the Billboard 200, and a Grammy nomination in 2013 for Seesaw, his cover song collaboration with Beth Hart. At age thirty-seven, already in the industry for so long, Bonamassa shows no signs of slowing down, and with the release the Howlin’ Wolf/Muddy Waters double CD live album Muddy Wolf at Red Rocks on March 24, 2015 though J&R Adventures, it is clear that he will be keeping Blues alive for years to come.
A little over a month after the release of Muddy Wolf at Red Rocks, Bonamassa stopped at Comerica Theatre in the heart of downtown Phoenix, Arizona on Thursday April 30th to host an evening of Rock-n-Blues festivities. Bonamassa, who is no stranger to Phoenix, started out with Hall of Fame inductee Reese Wynans on keyboards, Carmine Rojas on bass, Tal Bergman on drums, Daniel Sadownick on percussion, and Lee Thornburg, Paulie Cerra, and Nick Lane rounding out the horns section. The stage was well-lit with Wynans and the keys on the right, balanced by bass and percussions off to the left. The setup seemed to resemble that of the Big Band era with huge JB shaped guitar picks lit up on the mic stands and all along the horn section. This seemed to keep the band more restrained, allowing Bonamassa free reign to bring his stroll and swagger across the entire stage.
Everything got rolling with a medley of Jimi Hendrix’s “Hey Baby (New Rising Sun)” and “Oh Beautiful!,” both from the 2014 album Different Shade of Blue. Then it was down to more traditional Bonamassa business as he paid tribute to Howlin’ Wolf with a cover of “Hidden Charms,” “Living On the Moon,” “Trouble Town” and a shout out to Otis Rush via Stevie Ray Vaughan with a little “Double Trouble.” This is where the Vaughn’s own keyboardist Wynans added a ton of Hammond soul to the proceedings.
Next came Freddie King’s “Look Over Yonder’s Wall,” which featured a break down silent section of Bonamassa’s volume knob wizardry against the percussionist, producing a shaky rattlesnake jangle. It was after this display of mastery that the man with the axe finally addressed the audience by thanking fans for the twenty-five years of support and giving an inspirational shout out to Phoenix’s Rhythm Room, where everything had started for him.
As the show rolled on and Bonamassa stroked his guitar, he managed to repeat some dynamic texturing and intrude some outlandish Raga scale like he did for “One Less Cross To Bear.” It had a very psychedelic feel to it for a couple of seconds, until he pulled it back to keep from sending older fans into a ’60s flashback. The crowd gave standing ovations after every lengthy Blues anthem, including a cover of Albert King’s “Don’t Burn Down That Bridge,” “So, What Would I Do?,” and “Love Ain’t A Love Song,” with the coup de grace after the conclusion of “Sloe Gin,” an amazing song that not only showed Bonamassa’s strong, dominating vocals, but also showcased some serious guitar slinging.
The show lasted for two hours when Bonamassa and crew briefly left the stage, only to return for a one song encore, a cover of Muddy Waters’ “All Aboard.” This legendary Blues anthem was more than enough to send this Phoenix crowd home with the love of the Blues in their hearts. Although this tour is wrapping up in Vancouver in the middle of May, Bonamassa will travel to Europe this fall, starting in Helsinki on September 29th and continuing for nineteen dates to wrap things up in the UK on Halloween. In between these dates, Bonamassa will go on the US wide Three Kings Tour, a tribute to B.B., Albert, and Freddie King, that lasts the month of August. Get out there and see this fantastic guitarist who is carrying the torch of Blues Rock tradition into the future.