May 25, 2012
Photography by Chris Joles.
Review by Bluebird.
We support the Boston Blues Society.
"Keep The Blues Alive" in your region of the world!
With special thanks to Deb Hebert and Ann Joles.
Joe Bonamassa at Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom, Hampton, NH, 2012. With Special Guest, Johnny A.
Welcome to Hampton Beach. The community of Hampton Beach has something to offer its members everyday - the shared experience of the ocean right outside your window. I spent some time here before the Joe Bonamassa show. The people were warm and inherently considerate, building years of friendship and businesses on trust and handshake deals. Anyone that I spoke to knew that Joe Bonamassa was coming to the Casino. There was a quiet force to be reckoned with this weekend.
Wave equations, often used to measure sound waves, light waves and water waves, were in process for sure. And what about wave forces? The calculation of how much impact the wave needs to make in order to move something. As I watched Joe that night, I still had the experience of this coastal community and seascape fresh in my mind. Joe has his own formula for designing the impact of the sound that emerges toward each audience. And the force of his musical message? Well, that crest is peaked by his fans. Now let's talk about the show. Enjoy the ride ...
Early patrons were treated to a live sound check by Joe himself as fans gathered around. One cheered, "Welcome to New Hampshire!" Joe nodded, smiled and quietly exited side stage. This was classic, elegant Joe. You could not have scripted it better. The traditional Iron Maiden, "Two Minutes to Midnight," is the blaring curtain call that starts every Bonamassa performance, giving fans a chance to get to their seats. Joe came out before the song was over, eager to start the show.
Tal Bergman started off with crossing his drum sticks high in the air and strobes grabbed the scene. A fan in the audience immediately tapped me on the shoulder, "Who is THAT?" I was proud to offer his name, because Tal struck me as unbelievable the first I saw him live too.
"Slow Train" coming and Joe walked to the left of the stage, tearing into a crisp solo. This lead to an extended ending with some of Carmine Rojas' deep bass lines keeping up the back beat. Joe's soulful vocals mellowed the song, 'there's a slow train coming ..." Cheers roared from the crowd.
"Last Kiss" had Rick Melick lead on the double tambourines. Joe came to the edge of the stage, leaned over the crowd and seemed to be playing in mid-air. There was a quiet anthem like quality with the core of the pain in this song and many fans were singing, "torn down, beat up, all in the name of good-bye ..."
Green smoke swept in like a Celtic spirit and Joe went into his rendition of "Midnight Blues," a tribute to Gary Moore. Moore had always been a favorite of Joe's and there is a wide range of footage with Joe playing Gary Moore and meeting him before he died last year. This song made Joe's guitar weep, fans stood in ovation among the Casino tables. Epic.
In "Dust Bowl," Carmine had the crowd groovin to the rhythm of this steamy streamlined track, off of Joe Bonamassa's same titled 2011 album, Dust Bowl. Hands up amongst the fans, swaying to this great performance, Joe engaged the crowd constantly. This is why he has such a loyal fan following, the passion for music and the community it creates.
Joe has cited in various interviews his love of British rock, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page. These musicians electrified roots and blues and every now and again, a familiar riff will slip out from Joe. There was a hint of the opening to "Whole Lotta Love" and then he quickly moved into the rest of the set.
"Sloe Gin." May day, May day, but fans didn't want to be rescued from this storm. The lightening sharp chords climbed. Joe cascaded across the stage facing each corner of the room, both sides of the venue in the 'Joe zone.' The evening was unfolding and he addressed the crowd,
"I've traveled the world a hundred times over, I've never seen a seasonal McDonalds!"
"It's nice to be on the last leg of the tour, 59 shows- It's always a rowdy time at the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom."
Joe recalled the first time he played the Ballroom was with BB King and this performance was his 7th time in 22 years!
"Thank you very much!" he said.
Bonamassa's grasp of history and life's strife comes through in "The Ballad of John Henry." I first heard this live at Black Country Communion last year and even Glenn Hughes stepped aside to offer Joe the spotlight for this masterpiece ballad. Wailing soundscapes from the theremin put Joe into the class of 'guitar wizard.'
"Lonesome Road Blues" was a good contrast mixed into the set list. I love to watch the timing of band members to see how they support each other in the group. This had some in your face, trio jamming with Melick, Rojas and Bonamassa keeping each other's pace.
"Look On Yonders Wall!" It's Johnny A.!
Without fanfare at all, local blues master Johnny A. came onto the Casino stage. House lights went up and all musicians were pointing to the crowd. This was a moment in local blues history that these fans will always remember. Joe brought out a white double neck guitar, Tal Bergman stretched out all points of the show with his thunderous drumming. The crowd was frenetic. Joe and Johnny A. had a back and forth exchange that was all out wailing hot. I caught Johnny A. with Charlie Farren and Jon Butcher earlier this year at the House of Blues, and his presence always brings any blues performance up several notches.
Teasing us with a "Stairway to Heaven" intro, Joe changed out his guitar for "Blues Deluxe." "Young Man's Blues" had the crowd singing along and Joe raising his arms while the audience swelled. Joe threw out some great rhythms and Bergman escalated the song to create a rising fire along a low moan of blues.
Joe walked off to the side of the stage with Rick Melick, Bergman took over a soft humming beat and Rojas called up the audience. These interim jam sessions are the threads that keep this band and Joe's performances tightly woven for the fans. Joe traded off his acoustic guitar for "Woke Up Dreaming." This and "Happier Times" are my favorite Joe songs from his solo works. The intensity and drive to keep the unplugged momentum of this song just commands attention.
With Melick leading on the keyboard and a surprisingly subtle Bergman playing only cymbals, Joe switched out to his black guitar and started "Mountain Time." This song folded into the room like smoke from the grates of a T.S. Eliot poem. Chords in this last set sounded like rounded circles of water beading and collecting, then the rhythm picked up and the ending crashed into the room. The wave equation was perfectly calculated. House lights on and the band at full peak, with the crowd on their feet, Joe closed his formal set at Hampton Beach Casino, "Good Night, Everyone!"
Joe returned to the crowd quickly. He announced his 13th album which was released this week. "Driving Toward The Daylight." The record has already been well recieved by fans and critics alike. He thanked his loyal listeners here tonight, "supporters for the last 25 years." This title track was played tonight and it sounded great live. It is one of those songs you hear for the first time and can sense an immediate connection.
The show closed with the audience swaying and entranced by the music. Then the heavy force of 8 bulleted chord punches hit the crowd, along with more theramin. Joe plays ZZ Top's "Just Got Paid" at the end of every show. He announced the band once more and the fans knew this was the last they'd see of their guitar titan hero until he returns to US soil this Fall.
"My name is Joe Bonamassa, thank you very much."
Slow Train~ Last Kiss ~ Midnight Blues ~ Dustbowl ~ Who's Been Talkin ~ Sloe Gin ~ Ballad of John Henry ~ Lonesome Road Blues ~ Look Over Yonders Wall ~ Blues Deluxe ~ Young Man Blues ~ Woke Up Dreaming ~ India/Mountain Time ~ Driving Towards The Daylight ~ Just Got Paid
For more photos from this show, click here.
One of the most striking phenomenons is the network that has been created among the Joe Bonamassa fans. We documented this process widely last year and the Bona-bus just keeps on rolling. Driven by grass roots campaigns and word of mouth listening, these music officiandos are serious in their guitar talk and all things Joe. For more information on the Joe Bonamassa networks and street teams contact: http://bonamassastreetteam.com/
Joe's website offers the names of Paul Kossoff, Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Jeff Beck group, BB King, and Rory Gallagher as heavy influences on his music. With the impact of British/European rock in his hands, but a keen appreciation for roots and the Delta, Joe Bonamassa has been playing the blues since he was a young boy. From a working class family who owned a guitar shop in upstate NY, he not only has kept the blues alive, but he has persevered to keep his dream alive. At this point in his very successful career, the music of Joe Bonamassa is a shared vision with beloved fans.
Read his biography here: http://jbonamassa.com/about-joe/bio/
And a personal thank you to, Nick Birmbas, the owner of Jumpin Jacks Java for his great stories about Joe's visit to Hampton Beach the day before the show. Joe spent some time with a young guitarist who visited from next door. What I will never forget is the story of how the owner named his cafe after his friend, Jack Lasard. Here's to the honor of the handshake deal. This type of loyalty is often hard to find, but inspiring to witness.
Wave photo by Micah Gummel.
Jumpin Jacks photo by Bluebird.