Live Review: Joe Bonamassa, Leeds, 24th Oct 2015

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Blues virtuoso Joe Bonamassa is one of the hardest working people in music. He was the opening act for the legendary BB King when he was only thirteen years old. He releases a new album nearly every year, the majority of which have gone straight to number one in the Billboard Blues charts. Influenced by Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Rory Gallagher and Paul Kossoff, he consistently keeps the spirit of old school blues alive and kicking. Thankfully he took time out of his busy schedule to pay Leeds a visit.

There was no opening act, instead there was simply a tannoy announcement saying “the One Direction that you came to see has been cancelled, instead please enjoy the blues stylings of Joe Bonamassa”. Style wise it was a bit slow going, the setlist began with a power trio format and with minimal lighting. With half the stage empty and with a massive arena to impress I thought it an odd way to start, but the rest of the band soon joined them onstage and got into the swing of things. After a while though the setlist began to drag. There were very few songs that I knew, most of the songs that evening were covers of old blues legends. I began to long for a bit of variation and originality. With a back catalogue as vast as his there would have been plenty to choose from.

The few songs that I did recognise were an absolute master class. The slow building atmosphere of his biggest hit ‘Sloe Gin’ cumulated in his most emotive solo of the evening and the heavy stomp of ‘The Ballad of John Henry’ was verging on heavy metal territory. I may have had a bone to pick with the setlist but the performance was faultless. His voice has vastly improved since the first time I heard him and his playing displayed a level of emotion and dexterity that most guitarists can only dream of. I just wish he would play more of his own music and stake a claim as a blues legend in his own right, rather than paying homage to his idols. The best singers sing opera, the best drummers play jazz and the best guitarists play the blues; Joe Bonamassa is undoubtedly one of the best blues guitarists alive today.

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