The King Center for the Performing Arts in Melbourne, Florida hosted a birthday party last night. The guest of honor was Joe Bonamassa and his all star band. 2000 fans packed the King Center to capacity and to share the night with this blues and rock virtuoso in an intimate setting with great acoustics.
May 8th is Bonamassa’s birthday. The crowd shared birthday cards, and adoration with their favorite blues artist. Joe reciprocated and brought the gifts. Joe played two hours of silky smooth licks and opened entry into the soul of one of the finest masters of the guitar.
Hitting off the show was four songs on his new up and coming untitled studio album due out in the fall of 2018; “King Bee Shakedown”, “Evil Mama”, “Just Cause You Can”, and “Self Inflicted Wounds”. The crowd settled in, and after the eighth song, needing to catch his breath I assume, Bonamassa introduced his magnificent band. They were, Horn player Lee Thornburg of Super Tramp and Tower of Power, Paulie Cerra saxophonist and vocalist, Anton Rig the drummer of David Letterman’s band for over 20 years, Nashville’s most sought after bass player Michael Rhodes, and on Keyboards The famous Reese Wynans, who use to play with Stevie Ray Vaughn, Buddy Guy, John Mayall, and Kenny Wayne Sheppard. Just added for this tour were two backup singers from Australia, Jane McCray and Wanita Chippins I believe.
After the introductions were made, the show took on a rock and roll atmosphere with a British blues influence. This wasn’t the Mississippi Delta blues that we are accustom to here in the states with the soulful growl of Muddy Waters or BB King. But more of the British take on the blues from Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, or Jimmy Page. Two of the last three songs were bluesy Led Zeppelin covers, “Boogie with Stu”, and the final number, one of my favorite blues numbers from Zeppelin’s first album, “How Many More Times”. The show ended on a high note and the band left the stage to a standing ovation. They had played two hours and some of the crowd thought that was it and some started to leave. How could there be more? But, Joe and the band came back out for the final curtain call. Bonamassa said he had a present for all of those folks in the audience that might have been disappointed that they might not have known any of the songs from his set. So, his gift to them was “Sloe Gin”, the title track off his 2007 album.
A month prior to this show my Editor in Chief at MNPR Magazine, Richard Bolwell, published a review/press release of the artist. The beginning of the article was about Joe Bonamassa teaming up with Fender to release a re-issue of a signature model, of the popular “high-powered” ’59 tweed Twin-Amp, known as “The King of The Amps”. So naturally I searched the stage to locate The King. To my surprise, there were four ’59 tweed Twin-Amps positioned along the front of the drum riser. The sound was amazing and the source was well protected by plexiglass in the fashion that a dignitary would be protected with a bullet proof barrier. The amps can be seen in at lease one picture with this review. Priced at $3,499.99 a piece, who could blame Joe for protecting the four of them with bullet proof glass?
Bonamassa has released 15 solo albums with 11 reaching number one on the Billboard Blues charts. Even from his early days, of opening for B.B. King at 12 years old, Joe Bonamassa has dazzled the blues world with his percussion and ability. From what I previewed last night, he will be releasing his twelfth number one blues record this fall.