Ten years ago Joe Bonamassa played the Royal Albert Hall for the first time and it clearly made a big impression on him as rather than playing a single night at a bigger venue such as the O2 arena or Wembley arena, he’s chosen to play three nights at the Royal Albert Hall with all three selling out. Looking around it’s clear to see why any musician would want to play here rather than a soulless huge arena, and that’s even without the personal history that keeps bringing Joe back here.
It’s not just fans from London or even the UK here tonight – Joe’s fans are here from all over the world.
From the moment he kicks off with the show with “Tiger in your tank” this was a masterclass in playing the blues. He never puts a foot wrong and it’s clear the crowd are loving every second of it – there’s intent silence during the songs as people listen to Joes guitar and vocals, Joe’s great band and the amazing backing singers he has as they work through a set that’s over two hours long. As songs end there’s plenty of applause, and also at the start of many songs as people hear the first few notes and recognise the songs. “Sloe Gin” is a song that gets a particularly good reception from the crowd (understandably).
Two thirds of the way through the show Joe takes a few minutes to introduce the band, not just the usual “here’s so and so on bass, so and so on drums” that you get from some bands, Joe takes the time to extol their virtues and tells us some of the bands they’ve worked with including mentioning that keyboard player Reese Wynans is a rock and roll hall of fame inductee thanks to his work with Stevie Ray Vaughn, or that Trumpet player Lee Thornburg has not oly been part of Tower of Power but also played on the album “The Simpsons sing the blues”. It was nice to hear later on that during a trumpet section Lee Thornburg gave a nod to his introduction by playing a few seconds of the Simpsons theme music.
Although it’s Joe Bonamassa’s name on the tickets and he does play the lead guitar and sings, the importance of his band can’t be overstated. They’re all seriously talented and it’s clear that Joe has a lot of respect for them and he gives them all time to shine individually.
After the band introductions came one more introduction as he brought out a friend of his to join them for a song – the very talented Bernie Marsden. They jam together on “I get evil” and it’s fantastic to listen to as two great guitarists do what they do best.
Several more songs then followed including a ten minute version of “Last kiss” before Joe and his band bid farewell to the audience. Happily though they were back a couple of minutes later to do an encore. After “Woke up dreaming” we’re surprised with a cover of Cream’s “SWLABR”. Joe’s first gig at the Royal Albert Hall featured a guest appearance from Eric Clapton, so this may well have been a reference to that. The show then ended with “Mountain time”.
I’ve seen Joe Bonamassa a fair few times now over the past nine years and he gets better and better. No two shows are ever the same, but one thing is always consistent – you’ll have a great night at one of his shows.