Joe Bonamassa – Royal Albert Hall, London – 20th April 2017

Tonight’s show had an early start – 7.30pm.  With most gigs the support band would be on stage then or maybe even later, but Joe Bonamassa plays with no support and with an early start.  It’s something that catches out the unwary, but tonight the seats are all full before he takes to the stage.

The lights went down and cheering started as people saw shapes moving on stage in the darkness, then the lights came up on Reece Wynans playing the keyboards before the rest of the lights came up as Bonamassa and the rest of the band joined in with opening song, “This Train”.  It’s the first of five songs tonight from the “Blues of desperation” album, as well as being a great start to the night.  It also typifies Joe Bonamassa’s performance style – it’s not all about him being in the spotlight at the centre of attention – instead he stands back almost as an observer when the music calls for a keyboard section or drum solo or the horns to be the focus, and in this song it was really clear – Joe stayed out of the spotlight during the keyboard intro and only took the spotlight when singing or when he came forward for a guitar solo.

As the show progressed there was no time for small-talk – in fact it was late in the show before Joe Bonamassa actually talked to the audience.  Until then it was straight from one song to another, with only brief pauses to swap guitars over.    It’s a fantastic set – over two hours of great music, and Joe’s respect and admiration for the band is clear, not only when he introduces them all individually (although interestingly he didn’t introduce the second guitarist), but in how he interacts with them during the show.  They are a talented group of musicians with impressive track records so it’s no wonder Joe Bonamassa enjoys playing with them.

While it’s inevitable that people focus on the superb guitar playing from Joe Bonamassa (it is after all his name on the tickets), I really enjoyed watching and hearing Reese Wynans on the keyboards as my seat gave me a good clear view of him, and his playing was superb, and was a really important part of the songs.  Likewise, the two backing singers, Mahalia Barnes and Jade Macrae were fantastic with their backing vocals really enhancing the songs they sang on.  They really came into their own though for the encore, “Hummingbird” when they weren’t just backing vocals but were more like lead vocals, and their fantastic voices combined with Joe Bonamassa’s guitar playing was simply beautiful, making it a real highlight of the show.

With a show that’s over two hours long this was a fantastic night – Joe Bonamassa never disappoints and his playing is always fantastic, and with a band like his then the show is one that’s hard to beat.

Photos by Laurence Harvey

About Ant May

I spend half my life at gigs or festivals and the other half writing the reviews and editing photos, and somehow find time for a full time job too. Who needs sleep - I've got coffee.