@ Newcastle City Hall, October 17 2010

Joe Bonamassa had promised a big surprise when he hit Newcastle City Hall and boy, did he deliver.

Two thirds of the way through a concert of stratospheric brilliance, he made an announcement, informing the sell-out audience that when he chooses to talk for a second time during the main set, it’s usually for something pretty significant. And it was.

In his hand, he showed off the actual Gibson guitar his hero Paul Kossof, who died two years before Bonamassa was born, played during his Free days and then proceeded to perform Mr Big with a panache the late, great PK would have been proud of.

But this was a night when highlight toppled previous highlights.

There was one quite extraordinary moment after a truly breathtaking acoustic rendition of Woke Up Dreaming when the crowd broke into long, spontaneous applause with most on their feet in homage to a man truly at the top of his game.

It was the sort of acclaim David Gilmour earned after delivering the solo in Comfortably Numb or Jimmy Page was afforded after Dazed and Confused but isn’t it a fact that these days, the blues man from New York deserves to be mentioned in such exalted company?

In a set lasting just over two hours, Bonamassa kicked off with Rory Gallagher’s Cradle Rock before slowing the pace down with a personal favourite of mine, So Many Roads.

Sloe Gin inevitably brought the house down with JB stretching out this beautiful song to make it the centrepiece of the entire show.

But it had rivals, many of them, with the set-list not top heavy with material from his latest album nor overloaded with trusty mainstays.

The Ballad of John Henry, title track of his 2009 album was, he revealed, voted 12th best riff of the millennium by Guitar magazine. “Twelfth,” he gasped in mock fury. “F++ckers!” And everyone agreed.

The Great Flood from the same album gave us the blues at its evocative best but Bonamassa is so much more than a throwback to the days when the Mississippi delta was alive to the sounds of Muddy Waters and friends.

He encored with the Leonard Cohen cover Birds On A Wire which provided unequivocal proof that the 33-year-old is not just a six string virtuoso but a singer of impeccable tone and range.

And, armed with his Flying V, he transformed himself into quintessential heavy metal hero with the pounding Just Got Paid. A true Jack of All Trades, Master of the Lot.

With a tight and talented band providing trusty support, Bonamassa underlined just why he is now regarded as of rock music’s hottest acts.

Throw in the fact, he was making his first-ever appearance at the North East’s spiritiual home for the genre and this really was a night of relentless superlatives.

Ian Murtagh