I had a great weekend on a flying visit to my son in Birmingham. The reason for this was to get to a gig by Joe Bonamassa who was playing a short tour of the UK, basically he needed to come back to fulfil a commitment on a gig cancelled on the last tour so added in a couple of other dates including Birmingham. Firstly I've never been to the Barclaycard Arena - which was the old NIA but in the world of corporate sponsorship had a makeover a couple of years back and a name change. Joe was quiet funny making reference to this during the gig ;-) The venue was good though, efficient staff, clean, etc. My son had been there for a Slipknot gig and was saying he was worried it would be too big for JB but said "The seating plan when I bough the tickets though indicated a completely different layout." It was cleverly done. They moved the stage to end so that essentially it was turned into a semi-circular amphitheatre of about 4,000 capacity. It worked well for JB.
To the music - well simply flawless! With a 5 piece band (drums, bass, keyboards, trumpet and sax) they were as tight as ever and responsive to Joe's dynamics. He arrived on stage pretty much on the advertised 8pm start time and we were off. Given I didn't recognise several of the early numbers I've assuming they are off his new album which is released later this week. We rattled along though with the odd "Thank you" from Joe between numbers but it was a long way into the set before he said a formal "Hello". That wasn't that long and then bang into another quick fire set. All too soon it was 10:15 and he was off stage then back on for a two song encore and we were filing out feeling completely sated. He is simply the best blues/rock guitarist on the planet currently (in my humble opinion) and a great showman of the old style - i.e. I'll sling on a guitar and play/sing my heart out for you but no theatrics or mad showmanship just impeccable musicianship.
Soundwise the front of house sound was really good, however my Tinnitus is still bad guys but it was a couple of hours welcome distraction from that. Yes I wore earplugs throughout to anyone with any concern but frankly the damage is long done! He played through a variety of tweed Fender amps, four in regular use throughout. This is a completely different rig to what I've seen him play through before which was the Marshall 25th anniversary head and custom Two-Rock heads with large cabs before. The difference was a more compressed sound, more SRV than Gary Moore and actually much closer to his studio sound in my opinion. Guitarwise we had a procession of drop dead gorgeous Les Pauls - I presume custom shop models not his actual late 50s ones, although I saw Gary Moore regularly in the day with a house worth of guitar around his neck so maybe. In the les Paul area the odd Bonnabird (LP body with Firebird neck) got an outing. However he used a couple of Strats to excellent effect giving a very different sonic feel - the burgundy rosewood fingerboard one he opened the set with was a beauty! Also a couple or ES 300s came out an ES355 for a very BB King inspired few moments and a sunburst ES335. His Korina 50s style Vee also featured for a few numbers in the set too. Highlights - too many to mention but see below and Ballard of John Henry was just stonking as was his signature piece Sloe Gin.
Here is one of the new tracks off the new Blues Despersation album and one of the highlights from Saturday live with the line up we saw Saturday - enjoy...