Joe Bonamassa live from The Royal Albert Hall
DVD Review by Scott "Dr. Music" Itter

 

 

 

 
December 2009
 
 

Studio: Premier Artists
Release Date:
October 6, 2009
Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Number of discs: 2

It was at a Frank Marino concert that I first heard the name Joe Bonamassa. I heard talk like "Oh yeah, this guy is the best there is!" and "If you like Marino, you'll definitely like Bonamassa." Well, there was much truth in the air that evening because I do like Frank Marino as a matter of fact, and I've come to find that Bonamassa really is the best there is.

I'm not sure that I've ever seen a concert DVD as special as this one; and I think I need to explain exactly why I feel this way. Bonamassa started his professional career as a child. At one point on the DVD he talks about meeting B.B. King when he opened up for him - Bonamassa was 11 years old. His father is shown discussing how young his son is, but stressing that he has more mileage on his guitar than most of the veterans. There is also discussion of a dream that the young guitar player had after watching Clapton and Cream play their final gig at the famed Royal Albert Hall. His dream was to step foot on that same stage one day and play his guitar, and this DVD is a portrait of that very dream.

To start the DVD, we get footage of Joe's parents on their way to the gig. It reminded me of what someone might film for a wedding video. The DVD has a very personal feel from the very start. You feel as if you are fortunate enough to be sharing in this very special day.

When it's time for Bonamassa to hit the stage, he does so in such a way that he comes off as collected and confident. He saunters out from the backstage area playing "Django," an emotional instrumental piece that immediately gave the evening an accomplished mood. As he makes his way to the center of the roomy stage, with the majestic tiers of fans surrounding him, his guitar spoke with a veteran style and tone. It was clear that he had come to this prestigious place with great class and confidence. As he moved into the heavy groove rock of "The Ballad of John Henry," with its wicked slide guitar solo, it was obvious that he was going to lay all his cards on the table for this show. He brought an arsenal of sound to accompany his guitar as well. He has an excellent brass section working for him here. Songs like "So It's Like That" and "Blues Deluxe" are great examples of what a talented 3-piece horn section can do. He also plants two drummers behind him for this one; longtime Late Night with David Letterman drummer Anton Fig and Bogie Bowles work in perfect unison and dish out a bombastic foundation to support every sound that gets built upon them.

Now, I could go on and on about Bonamassa's great technique and amazing soloing prowess (and believe me, I want to tell you all about it), but I'd like to make mention of something that's often overlooked - his voice. Bonamassa has a strong and clear voice that can really carry a song. So many of these songs feature his guitar, but make sure you stop to appreciate the man's voice, too.

Bonamassa's playing is second to none. We see him play every intricate solo with tremendous tone and splendid harmony. Take a song like "The Great Flood." Here's a slow, minor key blues song that highlights his voice, shows him soloing with great passion and skill, and exhibits a vibrato technique like no other. If you want more of the massive, nasty type of jamming, you might want to visit "Just Got Paid." He takes the ZZ Top number to dizzying heights here, and even throws in a little Zeppelin riffage to sweeten the deal. No matter what you choose on this two disc feast, you are sure to get astounding displays of talent.

The show finishes up with two of the most emotional songs of the night, "Mountain Time" and "Asking Around For You." During the latter, Bonamassa holds a note in vibrato and shakes it, causing it to fade into near silence. It was just a great moment that showed his great artistic flair. And now, as he finishes his long set, he says, "Thank you London, for making this the greatest night of my life." It gave me a chill to hear him say this. All through this show I felt like I was still watching that 11 year old boy. He still has a huge fire raging in his belly, and he really was in his own personal Heaven for every note that he played on this evening; and, as these notes came pouring out into my family room, a little bit of that Heaven came right along with it.


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