Bonamassa fits the mood
Covelli Center, Youngstown, Ohio, November 28, 2016
Reviewed by Michael Rampa
It almost seemed strange at first, Joe Bonamassa; god of the Gibson Gold Top and sultan of the Sunburst Les Pauls to come striding on stage with a Stratocaster to open with three songs from his latest number one album, "Blues Of Desperation." But as he proved over the next 120 minutes, he can make any brand fit the mood of the song.
With 12 studio albums to his credit, he has plenty of back catalog to choose from. However, this tour is all about the new album and the majority of the songs not from it were featured on his "Live From The Greek Theater" effort, a tribute to the three kings (Albert Freddie and B.B) Surprisingly, there were none from "Dust Bowl," which basically catapulted him into the mainstream on the PBS special "Live From the Beacon Theater."
There is a Nashville thread in the band this time around. Keyboardist and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Reese Wynans is best known for his work with Stevie Ray Vaughn's iconic Double Trouble band, but he has also worked with the likes of Brooks and Dunn and Reba McEntire. CMA winner Michael Rhodes was on bass and backup singer Wendy Moten just wrapped tours with Martina McBride and Vince Gill. Bonamassa even employed the twangy Fender Broadcaster for a different twist on the cover of Led Zeppelin's "How Many More Times."
The only way to shine from behind Bonamassa's huge wall of sound is if he lets you. On this night, each band member showcased their respective skills. Wynans was most impressive as he played a medley showcasing styles from rockabilly to a carousel waltz. Rhodes amped up the fun factor with several funky slap bass interludes and Anton Fig (formerly of Paul Shaffer and the CBS Orchestra from the David Letterman show) broke out a lengthy solo midway worth of Neal Peart of Rush or Stewart Copeland of The Police.
The stage setup was much like the character of the show; aggressive and refined at the same time. Fig was perched high atop a drum riser with white hot spots gleaming off of his 25-inch Zildjans. It was fitting for the power jam on "Love Ain't a Love Song." Bonamassa donned a suit as usual and backed by multiple six-foot Marshall stacks he finessed his way through several songs. He opted for a deft staccato picking so high up on the neck that he seemed to run out of frets to introduce the final number "Hummingbird," a tip of the cap to the late Leon Russell.