A large crowd turned up to witness Joe Bonamassa, a man who is very much at the top of his game in his chosen genre. Bonamassa entered the stage accompanied by his six-piece band, looking like a man about to enter a blues bar, blue suit and white shirt.
Utilita Arena, Birmingham – 14 May 2023
Words and Photography: Andy Shaw
Tonight was the last of a five-date UK Arena Tour, part of a wider European run. From the very first track, Evil Mama, Bonamassa’s guitar playing is as slick as ever. This is a man whose voice is vastly underrated by some, but tonight, again, there is evidence aplenty that here is some of the best blues on the global circuit in modern times.
Rolling straight into Dust Bowl, the band is on track, obviously a well-oiled machine with the legendary Reese Wynans, Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame inductee, belying his years to turn in a masterful performance on keyboards.
Next was a brilliant version of Love Ain’t A Love Song with Bonamassa and Wynans on top-form trading solos, followed by two songs from his 2018 album Redemption, Self-inflicted Wounds and Just ‘Cos You Can Don’t Mean You Should. Bonamassa’s voice was as imperious as his guitar mastery.
The crowd were absolutely lapping it up, and during the next song, the Coco Montoya cover I Want To Shout About It, the brilliant voices of backing singers Jade MacRae and Dannielle DeAndrea shone. They beautifully complement each other and the music. The song also featured Bonamass’s sidekick and fellow guitarist Josh Smith with a blockbusting solo.
Another cover song was next. Double Trouble, an Otis Rush original, is a real blues classic, and the band literally throws the kitchen sink at it. The powerhouse of Lemar Carter on drums and Calvin Turner on bass give the music the intensity it needs. This was followed by a brilliant version of I Didn’t Think She Would Do It with more keyboard virtuosity from Wynans.
Bonamassa addressed the Arena crowd, “Birmingham, how you doing? Tonight is the last night of the tour. Nice to be back in West Midlands back in Birmingham after five years. It’s also our eighth show in 10 days. Thanks to the crew for putting this shit out.” He introduced the band, and then we were straight into A Conversation With Alice from the 2020 album Royal Tea. The Heart That Never Waits followed, before another from Royal Tea in Lonely Boy.
With the band producing some stunning individual and collective performances, the set ends with a ZZ Top cover of Just Got Paid before leaving to a standing ovation. They soon returned for an encore of a cover of the Tim Curry song Sloe Gin, which is the perfect end to a beautiful night of blues rock with one of the best around.