Joe Bonamassa performs his first show in the North East of England in almost three years in front of a full house at the Sage Gateshead.

One of the busiest artists in the blues world you rarely find Joe Bonamassa sitting on his laurels. In the last twelve months alone he has released a new album with his hard-rocking counterparts the Black Country Communion, a collaboration LP with US-based chanteuse Beth Hart and this week we learn that there is a forthcoming live album depicting Joe’s recent British Blues Explosion tour in the pipeline. All this whilst simultaneously and relentlessly touring across the globe with his various projects.

Tonight Joe Bonamassa makes a welcome return to the Sage Gateshead for his first show at this prestigious venue since 2009. Back then the blues maestro was touring off the back of his seminal album The Ballad of John Henry. That show was also a pre-cursor to Joe’s now legendary debut performance at the Royal Albert Hall which took place a few days later.

Since those early days, Bonamassa has continued to push his creative boundaries whilst at the same time flying the flag high for blues music across the globe. The size and scale of Joe’s impressive touring band has also grown in both size and stature over the last decade.  Joining the man himself on stage this evening is Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Reese Wynans of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Double Trouble, bass player extraordinaire Michael Rhodes and the incredibly in-demand sticks man Anton Fig. Joe’s distinctive blues sound is further accentuated by trumpet player Lee Thornberg, Paulie Cerra on Sax and dynamic Australian backing vocalists Juanita Tippins and Jade MacRae. All night long this uber-talented ensemble come together seamlessly.

Tonight’s show features a healthy balance of old and new. At the top of the set, Joe takes the opportunity to road test a few of his freshest cuts including “King Bee Shakedown”, “Evil Mama”, “Just Cause You Can” along with slow blues number “Self Inflicted Wounds”. It’s a bold move to include so much new material so early in the set but it certainly pays off. Bonamassa later explains that these four tracks are taken from a brand new studio album set for a September release.

With now a dozen solo studio albums under his belt picking a set list for a show like this is always going to be difficult. This evening’s performance focusses in particular on Joe’s post-Ballad of John Henry material. Standout numbers include a beautiful rendition of “No Good Place For The Lonely”,  the stunning “Driving Towards The Daylight” and the up-tempo classic “Last Kiss”, which has the whole room up on their feet. 

The beauty of each of the songs included in the show tonight is that they all create a platform for each of these world-class artists to showcase their talents. A lot of the tracks take on a new lease of life when performed live and these fleshed out renditions open up to give room for everyone in the band to take the spotlight over the course of the evening. For fans of Bonamassa, this well-chosen setlist is a real treat with each number filled with passionate and emotive solos from Joe who arrives at the Sage Gateshead brandishing an arsenal of vintage guitars.

There is also room for a healthy smattering of covers from a multitude of blues greats and Bonamassa influences. This includes a funky soulful airing of both “I Get Evil” and “Breaking Up Somebody’s Home” by the legendary Albert King as well as Led Zeppelin’s jazzy blues number “Boogie With Stu” and a spellbinding performance of “How Many More Times”. The latter of which closes out the main set and leaves the crowd wanting more.

Following a brief interlude, Joe and the band return to the stage as the night is brought to a close with a stunning soulful blues rendition of the Leon Russell’s “Hummingbird”. Of course, this number was also recorded by Joe’s mentor BB King on the album Indianola Mississippi Seeds. Bonamassa leaves the stage to a standing ovation from the Gateshead faithful.

Tonight Joe Bonamassa delivers a two and a quarter hour display of guitar mastery on Tyneside. Bonamassa continues to go from strength to strength, there is just no stopping him.

Joe Bonamassa
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Event Date: 14-Mar-2018

About The Author

Adam Kennedy is an experienced music photographer based in northeast England. He has been shooting concerts for several years, predominantly with the band Vintage Trouble. In 2013, he was one of their tour photographers, covering the UK and Ireland tour including the headline shows and as opening act for The Who. As an accomplished concert photographer, Adam's work has been featured in print such as, Classic Rock Blues Magazine, Guitarist Magazine, Blues in Britain magazine, broadcast on the MDA Telethon on ABC Television in the US, used in billboard advertising for Renaissance Hotels in the US, and featured online via music blogs such as Uber Rock and Guitar Planet. He is also the official photographer at Newcastle Rock and Blues Club.

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