Concert Wrap: Joe Bonamassa, March 27 @ WAC

March 29th, 2010 at 3:20 pm

Joe Bonamassa and 12 strings of fury

Joe Bonamassa looked human. Once, and for just a few moments.

Late in his Saturday (March 27) set at the Walton Arts Center, he invited his girlfriend onstage to sing with him on his cover of Leonard Cohen’s track “Bird on a Wire.”

Their song completed, he gave her a warm embrace, bragging to the crowd of her singing talent, which she clearly demonstrated during their track together.

But during the 16 songs that came before ‘Bird on a Wire’ and the one that followed it, Bonamassa spent his time being something more than human in the way he played guitar and something less than human in the way he interacted with the crowd, as if he’d traded away all of his social graces for the ability to play better than all but just a handful of guitarist anywhere in the world.

For everything he lacked in interaction with the crowd, he made up for with searing, white-hot blues licks. That works the other way, too, though, and for all his amazing (and that’s not hyperbole here) guitar work, he was missing a certain ability to connect with the crowd.

Depending on which you cared more about, it likely made or ruined your night.

Click the ‘Read the Rest of This Entry’ link below to learn more about Bonamassa’s performance on March 27 at the Walton Arts Center.

For two decades, people have rightly been telling Bonamassa, now 32, about his skills with a guitar in his hand. This is someone who opened up for B.B. King as a 12-year old, after all.

He had the chops then, and he has them now. I’ve seen hundreds of concerts, including those with some of the established masters: Eric Clapton, Derek Trucks, B.B. King, Jack White and many more.

Saying who is the greatest guitarist is a matter of style and preference, mostly because no two play the guitar the same. But it’s safe to say that Bonamassa can hold his own with any of those big names. He’s that good.

He grew up in the blues, but has drifted in all sorts of directions. He calls himself an ADD artist, to him meaning that he has an interest in many genres but that he changes his mind quickly.

But he’s always had a fondness for British blues, and that’s evident in several of the covers he chose (he closed the night with an instrumental take on Led Zeppelin’s “Dazed and Confused”) and his very Zeppelin-eqsue riffing on several of the songs on his most recently studio release, “Black Ice,” most notably during “Blue and Evil,” which he played about midway through his two-hour set.

His three-piece backing band was tight, but they were a mere accessory to the dozens of solos Bonamassa would spool off throughout the course of the evening, most notably during a take on the Jeff Beck/Rod Stewart track “Blues Deluxe,” a stunning acoustic treatment of his own “Woke Up Dreaming” and the tempo-shifting rocker “Sloe Gin.”

He played at least six different guitars during the night, including a double-necked 12-string he started the night with and a fireburst Gibson Les Paul.

Regardless of the instrument, his sound was remarkable: clean, precise and active.

The same can’t be said of his voice. His husky singing sets him apart from many artists, but it also can get in his own way when he doesn’t take the time to enunciate and I missed as many lyrics as I caught.

His stage banter and presence left much to be desired, too. He moved around plenty, and his face was emotive and expressive, but he did little chatting with the crowd of 900 or so who had gathered on a Saturday night to watch him.

Even when he did offer the crowd a little between-song patter, it left me unfulfilled.

He talked of taking his girlfriend for a walk down the street and wondering who in Fayetteville would know him, then thanked the crowd for giving him a warm reception.

And though he did say he was appreciative, he also in the sentence that preceded it implied that he was both someone who should be known and someone that was too good to play some hamlet like Fayetteville.

He promptly jumped back into a song loaded with more fabulous guitar work.

If that’s all you wanted out of his concert, you probably got every dollar’s worth.

If you wanted something more than guitar, though, you might have been left wanting.

  • http://Facebook Gloria Wallace

    Saw Joe at Byron Bay x2 over the past 2 days. Thought he was humble, seemed to be enjoying the crowd interaction, said “why anyone would know me in this country is a miracle (Australia). I thought he was a very likable stage personality, and THE most spectacular on stage guitar performer that I have ever seen (and I’ve seen most).

  • LA Girl

    Being from the south, I know how it is when people think outsiders are looking down on them. I got the same reaction when reconnecting with home folks through FB. Joe isn’t the chatty type during a concert and yeah that’s not what I paid to hear. He gave his all with true emotion through the music. Get out of Ark and see the rest of the world.