99% of Joe Bonamassa Live At Carnegie Hall – An Acoustic Evening is, without any shadow of doubt, the perfect recorded live experience, with the missing 1% coming down to the sheer jealousy reserved for those lucky enough to have actually been there. Ah well, at least the rest of us have this outstanding recording to savour for time evermore.
A searing, live experience treat of a collection honed from two nights held in January 2017,this album is a further demonstration – like that’s even necessary – as to how arguably the finest blues/rock guitarist on the planet likes to mix things up.
With This Train getting things rolling, as soon as the loco pulls out of the station we know we’re in for something special; the stripped back, warts and all resonance of Blues of Desperation clear for all to hear.
Drive and The Valley Runs Low take things slow for a few chilled, more laid back minutes, before Dust Bowl gets the pulse a racing, the feet a tapping and the hands a clapping once more.
The contributions offered by Australian backing vocalists Mahalia Barnes, Juanita Tippins and Gary Pinto are extraordinary; a milieu of delicacy and intensity that makes songs zing with choral majesty. Added to the artistry of Chinese cellist, Tina Guo – particularly during an astonishingly earnest Driving Towards Daylight – gusto, gravitas and even greater grandeur prevail throuout.
As for the sweeping censoriousness of Black Lung Heartache and Blue and Evil – with multi-instrumentalist Eric Bazilian’s mandolin playing magnificence adding more fireworks than those seen at any Disneyland jamboree – suffice to say that just seven of nine tracks into Disc One and already the jaw’s agape; the mouth becoming curled into an unsurpassable smile of satisfaction whilst the envy of those in attendance grows ever stronger.
With a sublimely laid back Livin’ Easy and an almost angry sounding Get Back My Tomorrow from the Different Shades of Blue album closing out the opening salver, Disc Two has a lot to live up to. Yet, somehow, it does.
Frankly Bonamassa could perform Mountain Time on the spoons and it’d still sound superb. Here though, the song from 2002s So, It’s Like That is given a fresh lick of polish that makes its lustre all the more dazzling; the piano of Reese Wynan and the closeness of the tight harmony vocals combining to add ever increasing layers of poignancy and emotion. A track so utterly beautiful, it’s hard to leave it behind for those four others that remain.
Ry Cooder’s 1970 classic, How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live, sees Mahalia Barnes and Juanita Tippins come to the fore. Their rich gospel tones driving the melodious energy from the back and to the front so that its overall richness truly illuminates, aided and abetted by the Main Man’s luxurious playing.
Song of Yesterday, it’s cool sorrow exemplified by the luxurious strings accompaniment, becomes a power ballad of pure angst-riddled bliss, whereas Woke Up Dreaming is simply that, a musical dream undertaken whilst wide awake. B B King’s Hummingbird is given the full Bonamassa treatment, it’s chilly coolness the perfect antidote to the fever he manages to create in those who are listening. “Sometimes, I get impatient but she cools me without words.” Damn right JB, and then some.
Culminating on Amanda McBroom’s Grammy Award winning The Rose – made famous by Bette Middler in the eponymous 1979 movie, loosely based on the life of Janis Joplin – may at first appear a choice out of left field. However listen to the lyrics, feel of the music and then luxuriate in the overall aesthetic of the evening and you’ll get that this is the perfect closer to what, in truth, can only be described as being the near perfect Joe Bonamassa gig.
After all 99% ain’t too shoddy for anybody and as for the significant1% that stems from jealousy? Ah well at least we have this outstanding recording to savour for time evermore.
Joe Bonamassa Live At Carnegie Hall: An Acoustic Evening
Number of Discs: 2
Label: Provogue Records
23rd June, 2017
The Valley Runs Low
Driving Towards Daylight
Black Lung Heartache
Blue and Evil
Get Back My Tomorrow
How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live
Song of Yesterday
Woke Up Dreaming