@Newcastle Metro Radio Arena, October 21 2015
About an hour after the opening show of his UK tour, Joe Bonamassa took to social media to express his sympathy for the audience inside Newcastle Arena.
Apparently, he felt the environment was a little bit too cold.
Well, sorry Joe but there’s no need to apologise. From where I was sitting, it felt hot. Red hot.
No first night glitches here, no cobwebs to brush off.
This was a gig which ticked an awful lot of boxes – with big gold stars alongside each and every one of them.
Joe and his band-mates took us on a musical journey of style and substance. One moment, it could have been Download, the next a sleazy, lonely jazz bar in downtown New Orleans.
For those accustomed to Bonamassa shows, there may have been surprise, even disappointment, at the absence of a brief acoustic set.
But that void didn’t mean this was a night with the amps cranked up to 11 throughout. Oh no. You could have heard a pin drop during the guitarist’s most reflective moments.
The two and a half hour show exploded into life with Joe and his power trio buddies of bassist Michael Rhodes and Anton Fig, who spent 29 years as the house drummer on ‘Late Night with David Letterman’, kicking butt with their Spanish Boots.
They got downright dirty with a stunning rendition of The River, taken from Joe’s 2004 album Had to Cry Today.
Much of the material, however, is taken from Muddy Wolf at Red Rock, Joe’s tribute to Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, the two legendary blues’ artists who shaped his career path.
And the New Yorker has assembled a group of musicians with the skills and pedigree to pay them dutiful homage.
You suspect this is the band of JB’s dreams. Before this latest tour, he talked about now performing with a group of musicians who allow him to play just about anything he wants.
World-renowned Lee Thorburg on trumpet and Paulie Cerra (sax) offer a fresh dimension, enabling Bonamassa to stray into big-band territory at times.
But it’s keyboardist Reese Wynans, long-time associate of the late, great Stevie Ray Vaughan, who threatens to steal the show.
This is an egalitarian sextet with Bonamassa willing his mates to showcase their own considerable talents.
One or two fans were overheard complaining that Wynans’ Hammond and honky-tonk piano sometimes overshadowed the main man but they were in the minority.
While The Ballad of John Henry and Sloe Gin were predictable and worthy crowd favourites, a night of highlights scaled the musical summit during Love Ain’t A Love Song from last year’s Different Shades Of Blue – a spellbinding cocktail of guitar, keyboard, percussion and brass heaven.
It wasn’t just his fans but Bonamassa himself enjoying a trip to Paradise.