Concert Review: Joe Bonamassa, The Greek Theater, Los Angeles

Photo: Martine Ehrenclou

By Martine Ehrenclou

Despite the 90 degree heat, I was excited to see two-time Grammy nominee, “Blues-rock Titan” Joe Bonamassa perform at the Greek Theater, Los Angeles, on August 1st. It had been a couple of years since I’d seen him live and this outdoor venue is one of my favorites.

Besides, I’d promised my husband that if he saw Joe Bonamassa live that he’d become a convert, a loyal fan. He, like a few others, was of the opinion that Joe was a masterful guitar player, a technician if you will, and a little short on soul.

But I knew better.

Seeing Joe B. live is the best introduction to this phenomenal guitarist, singer, songwriter, who at eight years old, opened for B.B. King. He is considered one of the world’s greatest guitarists and has 12 studio albums, 16 live albums and three collaboration albums to his name. He is a virtuoso guitarist and the members of his band are outstanding musicians themselves.

Joe appeared on stage at 8pm in a gray suit, Stratocaster in hand, to join his bandmates. Most of the audience rose to their feet, greeting him with a standing ovation before he even began.

That tells you something.

The crowd, not just older hippies who love the Blues, but guitar fanatics, musicians, tried and true Bonamassa fans and those who were brought along.

After opening with “King Bee Shakedown” and “Evil Mama” from his upcoming, Redemption album, Joe traded out the Strat for a Gibson Les Paul, his trademark guitar. The whole feeling of the set changed then as he and his superb band launched into a slower paced rocker, “Just ‘Cos You Can Don’t Mean You Should” also from Redemption. With exquisite guitar licks and killer tone, Joe sang this Blues, almost Southern rock tune, with heart. Reese Wynans on keys delighted the audience with his vamps and a solo, summoning the audience to their feet once again.

If an audience does in fact affect artists, this crowd’s energy and appreciation changed hands with Joe B. because after this tune, this man was on fire. Joe and the band slid into a monster groove and for 2 ¾ hours we were graced with one of the best performances I’ve ever seen. The band consists of Reese Wynans (keyboards) Anton Fig (drums) Michael Rhoads (bass) Lee Thornburg (trumpet) Paulie Cerra (sax) and two backing singers, Jade MacRae and Mahalia Barnes.

Setting the mood with a groaning guitar, Joe threw himself into “Self Inflicted Wounds,” his vocals full of heartache. It’s a mournful song, and Joe gave in to it. That was the first time I’d heard the real quality of his voice, the beauty of it. Whether I’d previously been focused on his dazzling guitar work, I’m not sure. This song showcased Joe as a soulful singer and blew a soft wind over the audience, now quiet, in reverence.

Albert King’s “Don’t You Lie to Me” came next, as Joe played a red Gibson 335 guitar. This tune had a more syncopated feel than the original and the band was in top form. Trumpet and sax players, Thornburg and Cerra, kicked off the melody and then handed things off to Joe who was now fully loosened up. Wynans blew us away with one kick a** piano solo, which drew whoops and hollers from the crowd.

One of the standouts from the evening “Breaking Up Somebody’s Home,” a funky, R&B rocker that rocked everyone–the audience and the band. Joe swayed back and forth and played off his bass player, Rhoads, and moved across the stage with great groove and feel. At one point during the song, I turned to view the 4,000-seat packed venue, and realized that not one seat was empty. Solos from Wynans on organ and Cerra on sax, wowed everyone. This tune featured the entire band’s talents, including Joe playing an absolutely stunning guitar solo that turned into a full on jam.

At this point, my husband turned to me and said, “I take back everything I’ve said about him. He is incredible, just incredible.”

Mission accomplished.

Thanks to Linda Moke (missmoke007 on YouTube ) for this video of “Breaking Up Somebody’s Home.” Be sure to wait for Joe’s guitar solo.


 
After this song ended, Joe took off his glasses and spoke to the audience to welcome us. He said, “I’m one of you. I know what it takes to drive seven miles and have it take three hours.” Everyone laughed, having just fought rush hour traffic in L.A. to get there. Unless you live here, you cannot imagine what it is like. But for some of us, we make the drive to see outstanding live shows. This one was definitely worth it.

Joe Bonamassa was funny, self-effacing with his humor and we loved him all the more for it.

After more crowd favorites like “Slow Train” and “Nobody Loves Me But My Mother,” a BB King cover, Joe and the band performed a couple of Led Zeppelin covers, the second being “How Many More Times” from his album, British Blues Explosion Live. A breathtaking version, once again Joe and the band wowed us with outstanding musicianship. But more than that, everyone on stage seemed to be having such a good time. The energy was infectious. Maybe the respect and love from the crowd allowed for more freedom from Joe and his band, but I knew then that we were witnessing a special show that night.

A searing ballad, “Slow Gin” closed out the show. This slow burn of a song showcased Joe’s voice from soulful and soft to clear with emotional punch. His solo on his Les Paul guitar was not only impressive but moving.

Was this a show planned down to the wire? Probably. Even down to choreography of band members interacting on certain songs? Maybe. Did I care? Not at all. Because Joe Bonamassa and the band delivered beyond my expectations. The musicianship on every single one of the 15 songs was superb, outstanding.

A phenomenal show.

Joe Bonamassa is currently on tour. For more information see here

 

 

 

By |2018-08-03T13:08:58+00:00August 2nd, 2018|Concert Reviews|20 Comments

20 Comments

  1. John Geloso August 3, 2018 at 5:45 pm - Reply

    Martine, great review. I have seen Joe live four times. Each time I marvel at his guitar playing ability and how tight the band is on original and cover songs. They are normally really fun concerts.

    • Martine Ehrenclou August 3, 2018 at 6:16 pm - Reply

      John,
      Thank you. Wow, four or five times. I hope to get there myself. I marvel too at how good they are. Fun and inspiring. Thanks for your comment.

  2. Beth Boynton August 3, 2018 at 6:14 pm - Reply

    Wow, Martine. What an extraordinary experience you describe. I’m enjoying the clip right now. Thank you!

    • Martine Ehrenclou August 3, 2018 at 6:15 pm - Reply

      Beth,
      Thanks. Glad you’re enjoying it. Thanks for your comment.

  3. Charlie Hoffman August 3, 2018 at 7:22 pm - Reply

    Omg Martine! The line about 3 hours brought me back to living in Los Angeles for over 30 years and the price we paid for going to concerts! I so much don’t miss that! But I’m so jealous! JB @ the Greek. Doesn’t get any better! Thanks for the review. Hope to see JB soon here in Boise

    • Martine Ehrenclou August 3, 2018 at 7:45 pm - Reply

      Lol! Charlie – I’d forgotten that you lived here. So you really get it. Yes, you’re right, Joe B. at The Greek is pretty great. You’re welcome. I hope he comes to Boise too!

  4. Gary August 4, 2018 at 7:39 am - Reply

    I discovered Joe in 2006 and have followed his progression.Sounds like he keeps getting better and better.
    I am stoked as always about the new album and hope I can catch him on tour as well
    Bout time your husband got on board lol!!!

    • Martine Ehrenclou August 4, 2018 at 7:42 am - Reply

      Gary,
      I think he is getting better and better, maybe in different ways too. I hope you get to catch him on tour too.
      Lol!!! Bout time he did. And he did!

  5. Tommy August 4, 2018 at 8:51 am - Reply

    Really good review Martine thanks for sharing it with us I’m glad you got change your husband’s mind about Joe:) . I have seen Joe 12 times and he outdoes himself every time I can’t wait till he comes back to the NY area so I can see him again.

    • Martine Ehrenclou August 4, 2018 at 9:15 am - Reply

      Tommy,
      Thank you. I’m glad his mind was changed too!
      You’ve seen Joe 12 times!!! Wow.

  6. Gary S August 4, 2018 at 9:07 am - Reply

    Love your review, exactly how I’ve felt each of the 5 times I’ve seen Joe. Master musician with some of the best supporting artists backing him. Last year in Dayton Joe was talking about playing the venue, The Fraze Pavilion, early in his career on $5 Fridays. The show just happen to be on a Friday, he commented, your saying Joe, these tickets weren’t $5, and he then said, pointing out all the other artists onstage as well as the stage set-up, all of this cost more than $5. He then played “Drive” using a guitar he has purchased earlier that day at a music shop he frequented earlier in his career. Loved it!!!

    • Martine Ehrenclou August 4, 2018 at 9:16 am - Reply

      Gary
      Thank you.
      Agreed about his top musicians.
      Wow,thanks for story about the $5.

  7. Patrick Putman August 4, 2018 at 10:48 am - Reply

    Martine, I had pretty much given up on music in the early 80’s due to family and the general mediocrity of the popular genres of the times but in 2012 while flipping thru channels I ran across JB playing at the Beacon Theater on PBS….that was it…by the time the show was over I had bought my first concert tickets since the late 70’s….now I have seen Joe dozens of times as well as many other musicians due to being brought back into Blues music again….You and your husband have to go on one of Joe’s Keeping The Blues Alive at Sea cruises…they are amazing with the quality of the talent on board plus getting to see Joe multiple times….it is an experience that all true blues lovers need to attend…Joe never disappoints….Check out next years line-up for KTBA V…http://www.bluesaliveatsea.com/lineup/

    • Martine Ehrenclou August 4, 2018 at 11:10 am - Reply

      Patrick,
      What a wonderful story and tribute to Joe Bonamassa!
      We actually looked into that cruise and they were booked but will check into it earlier next time thanks for the info and the link!

      • Patrick Putman August 4, 2018 at 3:25 pm - Reply

        Go on the waiting list today if you are seriously wanting to go….next year there are 36% first timers booked…..all of these first timers started on the waiting list and in that way they move up the priority list for booking….

        • Martine Ehrenclou August 5, 2018 at 9:31 pm - Reply

          Patrick
          Thank you. Will do.

  8. Tim Solomon August 5, 2018 at 7:06 pm - Reply

    Great review, Martine! I have yet to see JB live in concert, but it’s on my bucket list! I’m currently learning how to play his “Driving Towards The Daylight” (well, learning all the words, and the timing, actually…the chords and rhythm aren’t that difficult).

    • Martine Ehrenclou August 5, 2018 at 9:31 pm - Reply

      Tim,
      Thank you.
      I love that song! I’d love to learn how to play it too. Good for you.
      I hope you get to see Joe B soon.
      Thanks for your comment.

  9. Jim Ave August 6, 2018 at 7:53 pm - Reply

    Martine
    My wife and I saw him in Paso Robles on July 28. This was my 8th time seeing Joe and my wife’s 6th time. Even though the setlist was similar to when we saw him last October, we were still blown away. Joe and the band put on a great show every night. Joe plays the guitar the way I dream about playing it.

    Glad you husband has been converted to be a bonaholic.

    • Martine Ehrenclou August 6, 2018 at 8:04 pm - Reply

      Jim,
      Lol! Bonaholic. That’s a good one!
      I can understand completely what you’re talking about— seeing him so many times and still being blown away. I’ve only seen him twice, hubby once, and we are seeing him again later this month!
      And it’s the same for me-
      I play guitar too and I could only dream of playing like Joe Bonamassa.
      Thanks for your comment.

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