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Review: JOE BONAMASSA, Royal Albert Home

Blues-rock guitar legend performs in 'Nerdville East'

Review: JOE BONAMASSA, Royal Albert Home

Joe Bonamassa is no stranger to the Royal Albert Hall, having played there six times in his career to date - so it seemed only right that he join the Royal Albert Home concert line-up before the current series makes way for two weeks of the BBC Proms.

Bonamassa has performed extensively from a young age, opening for BB King aged 12 with his band Smokin' Joe Bonamassa, and joining forces with the sons of Miles Davies, Robby Krieger, and Berry Oakley to form the band Bloodline before he turned 18.

He released his debut solo album, A New Day Yesterday, in 2000 and has been producing music prolifically ever since. On top of this, he has also collaborated with other artists such as Beth Hart, and he is part of the rock supergroup Black Country Communion with Glenn Hughes, Jason Bonham, and Derek Sherinian. Outside of performing, he is known as a great accumulator of vintage guitars; they're kept in the 'Bonaseum' part of his California home - a place that's appropriately dubbed 'Nerdville'.

Coming to us from his house in Nashville, Tennessee (or 'Nerdville East'), Bonamassa said, "I can't tell you how much this building, that concert venue, the people mean to me". It's clear that the Royal Albert Hall is a place that's close to his heart. "It's always and honour and a privilege", he continued, "I never thought I would make it to the great Albert Hall."

Beginning this set was with a Royal Albert Hall soundcheck favourite was a masterstroke; he chose a cover of Cream's version of the Howlin' Wolf song "Spoonful" - Cream obviously have their own history with the venue, plus when Bonamassa first played on the Royal Albert Hall stage it was with his idol (and Cream member) Eric Clapton. Performed on one of his many Gibson electric guitars, it really showcased Bonamassa's sublime musicianship as the instrument took control of the number, driving it home with lick after unstoppable lick.

He followed this up with 2012's "Driving Towards the Daylight", a song that naturally works in a stripped back acoustic arrangement, emphasising the storytelling lyrics and his bluesy vocal performance.

During this period of shutdown, one regular feature for Bonamassa has been Live from Nerdville - a series of live video interviews with stars of the music world, such as Dion, John Oates, Keb' Mo', and Eddie Trunk. He has also been involved in some livestreams, though is clearly keen to be back in the same room as his audience: "I'm tired of playing in front of amps!"

His penultimate song was "The Last Song for My Resting Place", an acoustic version of a track from Black Country Communion's most recent album - in his own words an "adventurous" move, but one that paid off as it made the transition from powerhouse multi-instrumental number to solo piece with ease.

Bonamassa closed the set with "Self-Inflicted Wounds"; again on acoustic guitar, this song was taken from his 2018 Redemption album ("if you're already redeemed, crack open a bottle of chardonnay and enjoy!"). Though recorded as a blues-rock track, its acoustic framing and lyrics of pain and redemption gave it a bit of a folk flavour.

This session was the perfect snapshot of what has already been an extraordinary career; beginning with his early influences, as well as showcasing both his solo work and collaborative efforts. A great introduction for those unfamiliar with his work, and a wonderful treat for his many fans across the globe.

Joe Bonamassa performed as part of Royal Albert Home on 22 August

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