Joe Bonamassa Newcastle Utilita Arena 13 May 2023

joe tixIt is some years since I first saw Joe Bonamassa perform at Newcastle City Hall. So I figured it was about time that I went to see the man again. And some man he is. Joe is a blues guitarist extraordinaire, to say the least. This time he has moved up to the Newcastle Arena, although the setup was designed so that it did not quite take up the entire arena. This made the show quite intimate in terms of the cavernous venue. Still, I can remember when he was playing local blues clubs in pubs in the North-East. The guy has worked consistently, diligently, to build his craft and his fan base internationally over the years. And much credit to him for doing so. He deserves his success.joe 1
I was perched, with my carer Jan, up towards the back of the arena with a great view overlooking the entire stage. We arrived just in time for me to have a tray of chips and a pint of lager. Not being a true aficionado of Mr Bonamassa, to my shame his songs are unfamiliar to me. Unlike the rest of the audience who hang on to his every note, are familiar with every song and give him loud cheers and applause for each solo. For some reason I always try and locate artists in my mind by comparing their work to that of others. In the case of Joe Bonamassa there are so many comparisons I could make.

joe 3The obvious one is Eric Clapton. My friend, John who hails from the North-East and now lives in the USA, is a massive Joe fan and has seen him many times. He feels that Bonamassa is on par with Clapton at his best and I can’t disagree. I also see and hear music that reminds me of all of the great blues guitarists: Jimi Hendrix, Alvin Lee, Peter Green, Jeff Beck and, of course, Paul Kossoff. Joe Bonamassa is a big fan and disciple of Paul Kossoff and owns at least one of his guitars.

Joe spoke about his influences in an interview (Guitar Messenger, 2014): “You know, my heroes were the English guys – Paul Kossoff, Peter Green, Eric Clapton. There’s so many – there’s Gary Moore, Rory Gallagher – another Irish musician who played the same things, but don’t tell him that. But those guys were my guys – Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page. There’s a certain sophistication to their approach to the blues that I really like, more so than the American blues that I was listening to. B.B. King’s a big influence – he’s probably my biggest traditional influence. joe2I love Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson and T-Bone Walker and stuff like that, but I couldn’t sit down. I was always forcing myself to listen to whole records by them, where I’d rather listen to Humble Pie do “I’m Ready” than Muddy Waters, you know? I think, the English interpretation of the blues just hit me a lot better, you know?”

Joe has assembled an excellent band of musicians to accompany him comprising of two wonderful female singers, a second guitarist, drummer, bass player and a keyboard player who pulls out some 1970s swirling tunes from his Hammond organ. Of course, they are all there to support the leading man.

joe4His songs are his own, yet firmly grounded within the tradition of the old blues man alongside the aforementioned 1960s and 1970s artists who brought the blues to a wider international audience. There are many guitar changes from Stratocaster to Les Paul to Gibson Flying V, and many long but enjoyable guitar solos. Each solo takes the audience away on a journey deep into the blues, returning to the song with Joe delivering lyrics himself, accompanied by the lady singers. He closes the set by proudly talking about the first time he played at London’s Royal Albert Hall, a UK memory of which he is clearly very proud, and rightly so. The encore is a slow soulful blues ballad entitled “Mountain Time”. I really enjoyed the concert and I intend to invest more time getting to know Joe Bonamassa’s songs before I go and see him next time round.

Many thanks to Jan for taking the photographs.

Setlist: Evil Mama; Dust Bowl; Love Ain’t a Love Song; Self-Inflicted Wounds; The Heart That Never Waits; I Want to Shout About It; Double Trouble; I Didn’t Think She Would Do It; A Conversation with Alice; Happier Times; Lonely Boy; Just Got Paid

Encore: Mountain Time

4 responses to this post.

  1. Many thanks, Peter. I saw him last year at the Royal Albert Hall, which I’d forgotten its splendour since I saw Eric Clapton in 2001. I only know a few of Joe’s repertoire, but he is a serious tour de force. I’m glad you enjoyed him.



    • Posted by vintagerock on May 16, 2023 at 2:04 pm

      Hi Ned yes the Albert Hall is a majestic venue. Joe was on top form. Happy days Peter


  2. Posted by Brian on May 16, 2023 at 12:05 pm

    Joe owns Alvin’s Gibson ES335 and usually gives that I mention if/when it is used, maybe you were out of luck and he did not use it the other evening. I have good memories of Alvin (probably the best guitar player I have seen live, maybe Richard Thompson or Ry Cooder might have been close), playing some stunning stuff at City Hall. Good review.


    • Posted by vintagerock on May 16, 2023 at 1:45 pm

      Hi Brian I wasn’t aware that he owned Alvin’s guitar. He did play a red Gibson that resembled Alvin Lee’s guitar so that must have been it! Yes Ten Years After were pure magic. Happy days Peter


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