Guitar virtuoso and singer-songwriter, Joe Bonamassa, will take the stage at the Stern Auditorium's Perelman Stage at Carnegie Hall on January 21 and 22, 2016. The road to Carnegie Hall is 26 years in the making, a milestone that fulfills a lifelong dream for the bluesman who has released 16 studio albums and reached #1 on Billboards Blues Charts more times than any other blues artist. He is widely known for tone, speed, and technical skill-- a musician's musician, and as an artist committed to keeping the blues alive for the next generation.
Fans were swift to post commentary such as, "Good for The Soul!" and "Music Heaven on Planet Earth", beneath film footage uploaded last week to Youtube channel, 1AnitrasDance. These videos are the first glimpse of five songs off Bonamassa's 17th studio recording, Blues of Desperation (pre-order now ahead of in-store/on-line release March 25), and new arrangements of favorite songs. Seven dress rehearsal shows are planned in MD, VA, PA, VT, ME and NY.
At Merrill Auditorium (Portland, Maine, January 16, 2016), an enthusiastic audience welcomed Bonamassa with cheers, whistles, and standing ovation. This marks his second appearance at the 1900-seat venue and third trip to Maine in 3 1/2 years. Bonamassa is joined at center stage by an all-star ensemble of world-class musicians including the acclaimed cellist and erhuist, Tina Guo, the Egyptian percussionist and composer, Hossam Ramzy, multi-instrumentalist, Eric Bazilian (The Hooters), on drums, Anton Fig (CBS Orchestra, David Letterman), on piano, Reese Wynans (Double Trouble), and backing vocalists: Mahalia Barnes, Juanita Tippens, and Gary Pinto. The stage is visually appealing and intimate, as ambient lighting illuminates varying shades of wood grains on numerous surfaces, including musical instruments, tables, lamps, lanterns and candles, all strategically placed throughout the living-room set design. It's a perfect backdrop to an evening of extraordinary music.
Themes of trains, heartbreak, loneliness and other blues references is evidenced on songs, "This Train", "Drive", "The Valley Runs Low", "Livin Easy", and "How Can a Poor Man." The mood changes, as do tempo, ranging from sultry to traditional blues, sophisticated and modern hooks to full-on jams. Bonamassa's vocals are smooth, soulful, and near flawless. Lick by lick, he delivers on his promise to set the night ablaze with his guitar wizardry. Adding to the dramatic flair and transforming these Americana-rich tales to worldly storylines is Guo's frenetic play and cello tone, the mysterious erhu, the wailing cry of Bazilian's flute, and the gospel-influenced harmonies. The music is delightful. I feel nourished. Emotional. I clutch my husband's hand; he mine, as he, too, is impacted by the beautiful sounds.
Fan favorites, "Dust Bowl" and "Black Lung Heartache" appealed to many present, as did "Song of Yesterday" and "Woke Up Dreaming". The interplay between Bonamassa and Guo is beyond description, unlike anything I've witnessed before. I believe Bob Ludwig of Gateway Mastering summed it up best with the following Facebook post, "His duet with Tina Guo (cello and erhu player) was the #1 most amazing display of technical skills I've ever heard." I have no doubt these particular versions will go down in BonaHistory as phenomenal! Watch "Woke Up Dreaming" below.
I'd like to acknowledge Kevin "Caveman" Shirley for his vision and bringing these musicians together. The notion complete strangers could practice for one week and then go on tour, is a testament to their individual skill and the universal language of music.
The evening was magical. Beautiful! Watching and listening to Bonamassa soothes my soul and makes me smile. He's an incomparable talent, unlike anyone I've seen before. I'm continually reminded of one summer night in 2010, the night I first heard/saw "Django/Ballad of John Henry" played. I knew then what I know now, Bonamassa is a legend in the making. Tonight's performance is possibly my most favorite to date-- which means the Carnegie Hall concert DVD (unknown release date) is on my Must Have Music list.
Yours in music,
Photos courtesy of Deb Hebert. All rights reserved. 2016.