By James “Skyy Dobro” Walker
Yumping Yiminy! $25 tickets, a Thursday night, and a sell-out crowd of 500-700; who would’a thunk it! And, who but Joe Bonamassa, originally from New York State and currently from Los Angeles, could have drawn such a crowd? Obviously his reputation as a guitar wizard and former 4 year old child prodigy (then played with BB King at 11) had preceded him. Perhaps the smoke free atmosphere helped, too.
“Wild” Bill Stahlschmidt and I attended and ran into Rudy Ordonez. We all lucked into seats right down front but feared being blown out as we were in front of Joe’s huge Marshall amps and speakers. Very competently and professionally, Bonamassa used all that power for a huge clean sound, not record setting decibel volumes.
Joe opened with only drums and bass backing him up for an instrumental during which he got to the business of letting his orange-yellow Les Paul guitar explain to everyone why they had paid $20-$25 per person to be there. Mid song, Joe literally massaged the strings, and after tapping a foot switch, got an incredible ethereal sound!
For the second number, the trio was joined by a keyboard player from Australia with Joe belting out the lyrics and, again, taking a mind boggling mid song guitar solo.
Bonamassa immediately launched into a slow blues for his third number, Howlin’ Wolf’s “So Many Roads; So Many Trains.” Joe’s playing ran the gamut from single string picking to power chords. His right, pick hand would range from slow playing to then hand blurring fast with his fretting fingers looking like a spider’s legs on a hot griddle.
By song seven, the stage cleared, and out came Joe’s acoustic guitar for a seated, solo mini-set. Later, as he announced the last song, Joe said that he was “honored” and thanked the audience to have such an outpouring of support for a first time in town performance.
For an encore, he brought out a Black “Lucille” Gibson model guitar autographed by BB King himself. BB may be the “king”, but for 75 minutes this night, Joe Bonamassa reigned.
Kudos to opening duo Steve “The Harp” Mehlberg and David Berchtold for laying down real deal Blues to set the mood.