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Thursday 19 September 2013

The View From The Side Of The Room: Joe Bonamassa

Joe Bonamassa, Motorpoint Arena Cardiff

Joey Bones has been coming to Cardiff since 2008 (to the Point as he himself pointed out) and for the last few years he has headlined the Motorpoint arena by himself with no major label backing at all, which is impressive. So the question arises who do you get to support Joe Bonamassa? Well last time it was David Ford, this time it was Joe himself doing some acoustic numbers backed by Tal Bergman on bongos and new boy Derek Sherinian, who jumped ship after the implosion Black County Communion, on grand piano. When a show starts off with Joe's own Palm Trees, Helicopters And Gasoline followed quickly by Bad Company's Seagull you know that the set can only climb higher. Next were Jelly Roll and the awesome Athens To Athens before the acoustic showcase Woke Up Dreaming brought the first part of the set to a close. The crowd got their breath back and the band walked back on stage to take up their electric positions. Tal Bergman and his wild hair took his place behind the kit, Sherinian placed himself behind the massive keyboard set up he had and Carmine Rojas strolled on bass in hand filled with his infinite coolness. Joe the plugged in and kicked things off with the atmospheric Dust Bowl and then Story Of The Quarryman which immediately showcased Joe's strengths, his amazing guitar work which is at times emotive and uplifting, other times its heavy and powerful enough to knock you out. His other strength is obviously his voice which is almost unique for blues based rock; it has a mid-range delivery which is at odds with the usual gruff whiskey soaked vocals of the blues legends.

Much of the set was taken from Joe's last few albums with his usual mix of originals and covers, Howlin' Wolf's Who's Been Talking came next with its calypso back beat, before Dislocated Boy, Driving Towards The Daylight and Slow Train were all brought together one after another for a full showcase of Joe's emotive, soulful guitar playing and also his song writing as all three were originals. Three covers were next with Gary Moore's Midnight Blues and Jeff Beck's Spanish Boots harking back to the blues legends that inspired him. The final cover (of the main set) was Song Of Yesterday which is originally a Black Country Communion song so not strictly a full cover, however it fit into the set well and was another showcase this time for Sherinian who used his entire keyboard range bringing in organs, keyboards, B3's and even Wurlitzers to his solo, the band then jammed for a bit before they moved into the familiar drum break of The Who's Won't Get Fooled Again before ending the jam with that songs guitar stabs. The final songs of the main set were the stirring instrumental Django which moved into Mountain Time to end the main set on a huge high, bringing the crowd to their feet in rapturous applause.

A small break and the encore came in the shape of Joe's showstoppers, the man himself said that he has tried to drop Sloe Gin from the set however when it is delivered with as much emotion as he does I think he will be playing it until he retires, after this catharsis it was time for the blues-rock stomp of The Ballad Of John Henry which got the crowd shuffling and clapping in their seats and then went into a huge solo at the end to satisfy the fret lovers in the crowd. Again with the final chords the crowd erupted with everyone standing. Joe has a very partisan crowd all of whom enjoyed every minute of this set and Joe himself made sure that he played the best set he could and as a veteran of such gigs this was one of the best sets I've ever seen him play, it was powerful, emotional, technically perfect and immaculate (much like Joe's suit). It was a set like this that shows why Joey Bones is able to headline a venue this size on his own back and draw a big crowd. 10/10  

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