A packed show at the Bournemouth International Centre (BIC) awaits the return of Blues virtuoso Joe Bonamassa, five months after cancellation due to illness. This fact, coupled with the lack of support artists has resulted in a noticeable buzz of excitement, as the audience waits impatiently for their man. As the lights dim and the opening intro lick fills the room, the crowd is transfixed, and raucous applause descends into silence. Bonamassa instantly captures the attention, and remains a strong presence throughout the performance.

Bonamassa instantly impresses, launching into an upbeat rendition of ‘This Train,’ the first of four songs from his new album, ‘Blues of Desperation.’  Straight from the off, It is abundantly clear as to the musicianship of his band, made up of drums, bass guitar, piano/keyboard, saxophone and trumpet. No instrument drowns out Bonamassa’s guitar or overshadows, yet each compliments and even enhances it, a testament to each musician. The Blues artist uses this to his advantage, the first long instrumental section making use of his band’s talents while adding his own superb guitar sound to the mix. This leads to the couple of new tracks, the catchy ’Mountain Climbing,’ and the altogether excellent title track ‘Blues of Desperation.’ The riff is particularly of note here, and again makes use of the band to add an extra layer of sound. Fourth track ‘No Good Place for the Lonely’ is also from the new album, and showcases just how strong Joe Bonamassa’s live vocals are. Also worth mentioning is the fantastic light show thus far, constantly adapting to the flow of the band.

An interesting trio of covers come next, each of them by one of the ‘three kings’ of Blues. Freddie King’s ‘See See Baby’ provides a refreshing dose of more traditional jazz infused blues, giving the brass instruments a bit of freedom while the audience nods along in appreciation. B.B. King’s ‘Never Make Your Move Too Soon’ is also well received, and both songs come at a good time, offering a more relaxed atmosphere after the intensity of the obligatory (but excellent) four song album plug. ‘Angel of Mercy’ by Albert King completes the trio, and the timing of these three songs bring to attention just how well ordered the setlist is up to this point.

One of the highlights of the evening comes in the form of ‘Oh Beautiful,’ the lights dimming during a minimalist vocal section, drawing the audience in before erupting in sound and colour, the crowd bathed in a red glow as Bonamassa delivers one of his more goosebump inducing riffs. Some audience interaction and a few laughs follow, giving the people a chance to catch their breath and show their appreciation. From here onward the performance never dips, the smooth groove of B.B. King’s ‘Nobody Loves Me But My Mother’ a rather brilliant addition to the setlist.

Bonamassa then unleashes two of his heavy hitters back to back: ‘Sloe Gin’ and ‘Ballad of John Henry’. The first note of the former is met with many cheers from the audience, and the lights dim once again as the first lyrics are uttered into the mic. Shouts of “Go on Joe!” can be heard as the music builds to a long, powerful solo, culminating in the final track, ‘Ballad of John Henry.’ The choice of these two songs makes for a very good finale, and the very different speeds between this and the previous track only highlights this further, one complementing the other. Completely in control of his audience, Bonamassa ushers for the crowd to stand, and they do so eagerly, rushing the front of the stage as the solo rips through the hall.

The noise for an encore is tremendous, and of course Joe obliges, playing another B.B King song, ‘Hummingbird’ before bowing with his band to great applause and cheering. Overall, Joe Bonamassa gives an at times astonishing performance, performing covers and his own material with a very accomplished band around him. The gig is just over two hours long, and many people can be heard exclaiming how quickly the time flew by. It was a concert that will live long in the memory, and served as a reminder of how good a live show can be when all the pieces come together, and when the star of the show is on top form.

Joe Bonamassa’s new album ‘Blues of Desperation’ is released by Provogue on Friday 25th March. You can see the artist at one of the following venues…

Houghton Tower – 2nd July 2016

Glasgow Clyde Auditorium – 3rd July 2016

Bristol Colston Hall – 5th July 2016

London Greenwich Music Time Festival – 7th July 2016

Newark Castle Riverside Park – 8th July 2016

This Joe Bonamassa article was written by Matt Shore, a GIGsoup contributor. Photo credit : Mark Lloyd

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