Joe Bonamassa at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, 12/01/18
In the past two years, Vancouver has been lucky enough to have three of the world’s greatest contemporary blues guitarists play its venues. Derek Trucks in 2016, Jonny Lang twice in the last year, and last week … Joe Bonamassa.
Guitar virtuoso Bonamassa set up camp at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre Nov. 29 to Dec.1 for three fan-packed shows. It was nice to see that his talent is indeed appreciated by a large audience, many of whom adoringly cheered and called for Bonamassa—who wore his typical shades, suit and slicked-back hair— throughout his last set on Saturday.
The 41-year old was a genuine blues prodigy, having opened for B.B. King when he was just 12-years old. He still insists on King covers to this day, and “Nobody Loves Me But My Mother” got the Bonamassa treatment this tour.
Saturday was not only the end of his three-day stint in Vancouver, it was the end of his latest 111-date tour, in promotion of his latest studio album Redemption. Bonamassa had a talent-packed band of iconic musicians behind him. “Seven of the greatest musicians in the world” included Anton Fig, who spent 29 years as drummer for David Letterman’s house band, and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame-er and keyboardist Reese Wynans.
While Bonamassa was stunning to watch all on his own, having such a stellar group of musicians supporting him really brought the show to its most masterful level. Wynans’ was especially mind-blowing on the keys, and offered up not only groovy organ sounds, but a real fun-lovin’ attitude.
As expected, Bonamassa’s set was chock full of guitar solos that ranged from the wailing to the endearing. The night featured a fair amount of original music, like Redemption’s “King Bee Shakedown.” But the bluesman also favoured covers of Albert King tracks like “Don’t You Lie to Me” and “Breaking Up Somebody’s Home.” Bonamassa’s effortless raspy singing voice paired well with Australian back-up singers Jade Macrae and Mahalia Barnes. While this was no doubt Bonamassa’s show, he had obvious respect for his band and made sure they got a fair chunk of the spotlight throughout the evening.
Bonamassa’s own “No Good Place For the Lonely,” from 2016’s Blues of Desperation, marked the first point in the evening when audience-members forgot about everything in the room but his guitar and how effortlessly he seemed to play it. Make no mistake, whether you like the blues or not … whether you like Bonamassa’s songs or not … seeing someone with skills obviously spawned by a lifetime of practice and a close following of the work of B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton and the like is an experience worth having.
Many of the Queen Elizabeth’s occupants rushed to the stage to get phone vids of Bonamassa’s greatest solo moments of the evening. Saturday had a great energy about it because it was the last of the tour, with Bonamassa throwing out not only guitar picks into the audience after the final song … but a whole damn microphone. This guy has many, many years of the blues ahead of him. But there is no doubt he has already hit legend status in the guitar scene—Bonamassa is indeed one of the greats.