Sitting center orchestra on March 11, 2019 at the FM Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre, PA impatiently awaiting the living legend that is Joe Bonamassa to take the stage, I lose myself in the conversations of the overjoyed attendees surrounding me. One gentleman two seats to my left turns to the man to his right and asks, “have you been to a Bonamassa show before?” That man awkwardly, almost seemingly ashamed responds no and that this will be his first. Lacking any judgement whatsoever, the superfan replies with a smile and proclaims proudly, “prepare your life to be changed forever.” This proclamation, on its face, admittedly grandiose, is spot on accurate! I know because, not long ago, I went from knowing “of” Joe Bonamassa to questioning the reality of his very existence. HE IS LITERALLY THAT GOOD! Think about that, just turning 42 years of age this coming May, Joe and the hard work he makes seem like breathing, now finds himself on every list highlighting the best guitarists on the planet. Joe Bonamassa has earned many labels, Guitar God, Legend, Titan, Prodigy, and on and on. One thing I learned on this night is that it isn’t ego that fuels Joe’s talent, it’s his down to earth, humble love and appreciation for the music he both masters and creates.
One would think Joe would be enough to drive a tour like a Blues burning freight train, but that wouldn’t be Joe Bonamassa. Instead, Joe surrounds himself with a group of legendary musicians that could easily sign on with anyone they desire to play with and in turn these Blues juggernauts choose to spend their time and talent with Joe Bonamassa. Included are Late Night with David Letterman‘s Anton Fig (drums), Nashville recording legend Michael Rhodes (bass), Rock & Roll Hall of Famer and member of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble, Reese Wynans (piano/organ), Paulie Cerra (sax), Lee Thornburg (trumpet), and featuring soulful background singers graciously exported from Australia.
Joe has graced the covers of every guitar magazine worth reading, topped every coveted chart, has either won or been nominated for every conceivable award and to make a long story short, doesn’t stop pushing and challenging himself to new levels of expertise. This drive is what keeps him on top and what sincerely does change the lives of music lovers that are lucky enough to cross his path. Yes, if you haven’t guessed I am one of them.
Thanks to my photographer, Bryan Harvey, Sr, I learned a few interesting things. One fact that I was happy to hear is that Mr. Bonamassa is an incredibly nice guy. You see my photographer was not only overjoyed to shoot the show, he is himself a guitar enthusiast and prior to that night purchased one of Joe’s guitars for his collection. In doing so, he managed to spend some time back stage and after the show with him. I have to admit, I love when the best of the best in any field remain grounded, generous and kind. It just makes it seem they deserve all the adoration they are receiving beyond their ridiculous talent. The other fact I learned that night was that Joe has been playing Wilkes-Barre, PA for decades and in fact played a little place when he was just starting out. Well, unbelievably, Bryan brought to my attention that one day many years ago, he and I caught one of those performances. It is nice to see what hard work and determination does for a career and even more so a life.
Anyway, if I haven’t made myself clear, if you are reading this, do everything in your power to get to one of Joe’s shows.
ABOUT JOE BONAMASSA
There are very few musicians who have influenced the world through the strings of their guitar. The name, Joe Bonamassa stands out among this group of musicians as his stellar contribution to the music world is unrivalled. Joe Bonamassa is an American blues and rock singer, guitarist, and song writer. Born on the 8th day of May 1977, in the beautiful town of Utica, New York, Joe Bonamassa’s journey to stardom began at the tender age of four, when he started learning how to play the guitar.
With his father being his source of encouragement, Bonamassa was exposed to the British blues rock music of Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck. This experience helped him realize his passion and devotion for music at a tender age and this helped fuel his dream of becoming a virtuoso. Joe always dreamt of playing music at the level legends in his time like Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix played and thrilled audiences. History has it that Joe started playing blues professionally even before he knew how to drive. The budding rise of Joe Bonamassa as he shares his music gift with the rest of the world is testament to the fact that talent can be used beautifully from a young age. Bonamassa’s talent gained spotlight when he opened for B.B King at age 8, and this drew widespread attention to his potentials as a guitarist. At age 12, he formed his own band known as “Smokin’ Joe Bonamassa,” and performed in different concerts and gigs, in Pennsylvania and New York on weekdays.
Bonamassa joined the likes of Erin Davis (David Miles’ son), Berry Oakley Jnr., and Waylon Krieger in the bloodline band, where they released an album named after the band “Bloodline.” Bonamassa’s dream was however beyond the level at which the band operated so, he had to leave the band. In the year 2000, while on Jethro Tull’s summer tour, Joe Bonamassa appeared as a guest for Roger McGuinn, and shortly after that, he released his debut solo album titled “A New Day Yesterday,” which was produced by Tom Dowd. This debut album marked Bonamassa’s move towards a more organic and rock-sounding guitar style, instead of the blues style he had been known for at that time. Joe Bonamassa worked with Eric Czar and Kenny Kramme to garner support for the album.
Joe Bonamassa has to his credit, an initiative called Keep the Blues Alive foundation which, is a non-profit organization aimed at advancing music education byraising fund towards music scholarship. The scholarship also focused on the availability of music education resources in schools where it is not available.
Eric Clapton, Blondie Chaplin, Stephen Stills, Derek trucks, Foreigner, Buddy Guy, Warren Haynes, Solomon Hicks, and Steve Winwood, are some of the artistes that Bonamassa has played alongside. The highlight of his musical career was his performance at the Royal Albert Hall with Eric Clapton, and his Grammy Award nomination with Beth Hart in 2013, for their collaborative album titled “SeeSaw,” in the Best Blues Album Category.
Currently, Bonamassa has to his credit several solo studio albums some of which include, “A new Day yesterday,” released in the year 2000, “So, It’s Like That,” “Blues Deluxe,” “Had to Cry Today,” “You&Me,” “Slo Gin,” “The Ballad of John Henry,” “Black Rock,” “Dust Bowl,” “Driving towards the Daylight,” “Different Shades of Blue,” “Blues of Desperation,” and “Redemption.”
He also has many solo live albums some of which includes, “An Acoustic evening at the Vienna Opera House,” “Live from the Royal Albert Hall,” and many others.
Joe Bonamassa is also widely famous for his extensive collection of both vintage guitars and guitar gears. He is a frequent visitor to Normans Rare Guitar in Tarzana, California, where he deals in Vintage guitars.
SET LIST FOR MARCH 11, 2019
- TIGER IN YOUR TANK
- KING BEE
- EVIL MAMA
- JUST CAUSE YOU CAN
- SELF INFLICTED WOUNDS
- THIS TRAIN
- BLUES OF DESPERATION
- HOW DEEP THIS RIVER RUNS
- SLOW GIN
- WELL WELL
- STUFF YOU GOTTA WATCH
- NOBODY LOVES ME BUT MY MOTHER
- LITTLE GIRL
- LAST KISS
- WOKE UP DREAMING
- MOUNTAIN TIME