Joe Bonamassa starts his UK Tour in Newcastle, making his first appearance in the region since 2012.
It’s been almost a decade since Joe Bonamassa arrived on UK shores, playing his first show at Mr Kyps in Poole to a crowd of merely 100 people. Over the last ten years, Bonamassa has been flying the flag for blues across the globe. Tonight he plays to a packed out crowd at the Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle, a far cry from his first show in the North East at the Customs House in South Shields.
Keeping things fresh, his new almost two and a half-hour career-spanning set is somewhat different from what we saw at Hammersmith earlier this year. Some changes to his touring lineup also see Anton Fig (drums) and Michael Rhodes (bass) replacing Tal Bergman and Carmine Rojas respectively.
Bonamassa opens the show with a rocking cover of “Spanish Boots” by Jeff Beck before delving deep into his back catalog. “I Know Where I Belong” and “The River” both sound incredible. From here on out, he is joined on stage by the legendary Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, Reese Wynans of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble. Also on stage is the talented horn section of Lee Thorburg (trumpet) and Paulie Cerra (sax).
The midsection of the show centers around Bonamassa’s latest offering, Different Shades of Blue, with a trio of tracks including “Hey Baby,” “Oh Beautiful,” and the ever so funky “Trouble Town” with its slide-tastic intro.
In Bonamassa’s on stage banter, he explains the danger of mistaking someone who was born in Newcastle for someone who was born in Scotland. Having made such a mistake on arrival at the venue today, he was told with a certain degree of Geordie affection politely where to go, much to the amusement of the audience.
Although Bonamassa is carrying blues forward into the 21st century, he has an appreciation of what came before and he most certainly knows where he is going. His recent Muddy Wolf and Three Kings tours in the U.S. are a testament to that. As such, his set tonight includes numbers from a veritable who’s who of blues greats.
Bonamassa played “Burning Hell” by John Lee Hooker and an unmistakable “Going Down” by Freddie King. During a breathtaking cover of “Double Trouble” by Otis Rush, Joe brought the volume down to the point where you could hear a pin drop in the arena; the audience was transfixed. Bonamassa is taking each of these classics and making them his own.
The show closes with a triple whammy of Bonamassa classics, including “Love Ain’t A Love Song” and the beautiful “Sloe Gin,” which featured a sublime organ intro from Wynans. He wraps with the blues rock masterpiece, “The Ballad of John Henry,” before leaving the stage to a standing ovation.
The encore finishes the night with Albert King’s “Angel of Mercy” and “All Aboard” by Muddy Waters. The latter turns into an all out blues jam that Joe and Reese Wynans were sparring with one another.
Joe Bonamassa is always challenging himself and, with each show, he goes from strength to strength. He is carrying Blues forward, taking it out of the bars, clubs, and speakeasies and into the mainstream. What you get with Joe Bonamassa is not just a concert; you get a show.