Joe Bonamassa and his band played the Palace Theater Tuesday night, and when one takes the stage dramatically backlit in a blaze of floodlights, the performance really needs to measure up to the rock-star entrance. In Bonamassa's case, there's no need to worry, because you're unlikely to come across a more obviously gifted guitarist. Whether he's laying down blazing-fast licks with mystical dexterity or coaxing much more subtle and melodious notes out of his array of guitars, Bonamassa is mesmerizing to watch. Not ever having accomplished much more on guitar than plunking out a few chords, it's doubly hard for me to describe what Bonamassa does, but I think even more seasoned guitarists are left shaking their heads. As my husband commented, after watching him play, you either want to go home and practice your guitar or smash it.
While the guitar artistry gets all the oohs and ahs, Bonamassa completes his performance with strong vocals, an obvious passion for what he does, and great chemistry with his bandmates, the formidable players on the Dust Bowl record -- drummer Tal Bergman, bassist Carmine Rojas, and keyboardist Rick Melick.
Highlights for me were the slow and smoky "Midnight Blues," "Sloe Gin," and his freakishly good acoustic solo "Woke Up Dreaming." While Bonamassa is personable and gracious, he kept the stage banter to a minimum, instead treating a full-house of appreciative Blues fans to two-hours of stellar music. In addition to his own songs, Bonamassa pays tribute to some of his heroes with covers like "Midnight Blues" by Belfast Blues-rocker Gary Moore and a soulful rendition of Leonard Cohen's "Bird on a Wire" in the encore.
The additional photos below will give you some of the flavor of the night's performance.
Drummer Tal Bergman and bass player Carmine Rojas
Bonamassa and Rick Melick in the shadows
Shredding the acoustic
Oh, so many guitars; techs get some love too
Joe schools the theramin ...
Duels with Rojas...
And proves he's a diplomat.
Photo credits: Lee Burchfield and Selena Frye