Joe Bonamassa at Bournemouth International Centre

OVER recent years, my dad and I have slowly developed an appreciation for each other’s musical tastes and, while some of the CDs lurking amongst his collection are, in my eyes, slightly dubious, I was really pleased that for the first time last Friday night, we set off to a gig together.

The audience that filled the Windsor Hall of the Bournemouth International Centre was admittedly, mainly male (and generally of a similar age to my dad) but there was also a sense that this was a concert being attended by those who truly appreciate musical prowess. As the lights went down, a single spotlight searched the stage for one of the premier blues/rock guitarists ever seen.

A child prodigy, American guitarist Joe Bonamassa caught the ear of blues legend BB King at the age of just ten, and was opening shows for him by the age of 12. Steadily building his career over the last 24 years, he now has a number of top selling albums and guitar accolades under his belt.

Starting his set seated on a bar stool with an acoustic guitar, Bonamassa was joined on stage by Tal Bergman on bongos and Derek Sherinian on keys, to skilfully work his way through five tracks including Palm Trees, Helicopters & Gasoline, ending with Woke up Dreaming. From there, the group plugged in and were joined on stage by bassist Carmine Rojas; what followed was a true master class in the guitar.

Whilst at times the balance of sound made it hard to make out Bonamassa’s vocals, all eyes were really on what his fingers were up to. Moving effortlessly from track to track, the audience seemed to always be anticipating the moment he’d launch into an intricate and often unbelievable section of complicated picking, sliding and plucking. During this were moments when he seemed so engrossed in what he was doing, he could have been jamming at home, completely for his own pleasure, lost in his music. However there was nothing pretentious about this show.

Refraining from stopping for the seemingly forced artist/audience chat that so many performers litter their concerts with, the group stormed through Bonamassa hits such as Dust Bowl, Driving Toward the Daylight and Django, interspersing them with covers including Midnight Blues by Gary Moore, Howling Wolf’s Who’s Been Talking and Won’t Get Fooled Again by The Who. During the unexpected moments when Bonamassa broke the tracks down to nothing more than the tap of a drumstick and his soulful guitar, you could almost have heard a pin drop in the auditorium – it was like nothing I’ve experienced there before. All eyes were on the frets and strings of his guitar, all ears were drinking in the electrifying, wailing sounds he manages to tease from his guitar; at times you could be mistaken in thinking he’d swapped instruments completely.

After two hours virtually non-stop, the sodden-suited guitarist and his band left the stage, only to be emphatically recalled by the mandatory clapping, whistling and foot-stomping that precedes an encore. Upon their return they performed one of Bonamassa’s biggest songs, one he‘d previously tried to drop from tours and had to reintroduce to please fans, Sloe Gin. The Ballad of John Henry brought to a close an unforgettable evening for both music-lovers and fans alike. Both my Dad and I had been bewitched by the wizardy of the man who is, in my eyes, the greatest living guitarist and who will be up there with the greatest of all time.


Posted in Reviews on .