There can’t be more than four or five months elapse without a new Joe Bonamassa CD or DVD, either by Black Country Communion or solo Bonamassa. Gotta hand it to the man, though, he keeps his fans plenty satiated, and he’s got another souvenir on tap to add to their JB collections.
The latest disc coming our way is a DVD from a live performance last November at New York’s famed Beacon Theater, featuring Bonamassa and his road band with Rick Melick on keys, Carmine Rojas on five string bass and Tal Bergman on drums. Bonamassa is decked out in his usual low-key attire of a dark suit and open white shirt and the show is similarly no-frills and business-like. Serious musicianship ruled the night and Joe B. didn’t disappoint those in audience looking for him to burn up the frets. His style is really a composite of blues-rock and metal guitarists who came before him, and if that doesn’t make it sound like he’s terribly original, watching him play those licks is something else: he, to use a heavily used phrase, makes it look so freakin’ easy.
The set list is heavy on the tunes from his more recent albums like Dust Bowl and Black Rock (and in case you were wondering, no Black Country Communion songs), and they’re played pretty close to the studio version except that Joe stretching out more on his solos. With 14 cameras deployed in an acoustic-friendly environ, not much is missed either visually or aurally, and we get to watch Bonamassa play no less than eight different axes of all different types, but nearly all are Gibsons (I particularly dig the Don Felder “Hotel California” ES-1275 he was rocking on “Young Man Blues.”)
To head off anyone who might call this a typical Bonamassa show and they’ve seen it all before, there’s a couple of added treats that made this show stand out a tad from the other ones. Firstly, there’s not one or two but three special guest appearances, each performing on two songs a piece. Beth Hart appears first to belt out “I’ll Take Care Of You” and “Sinner’s Prayer.” John Hiatt, looking and sounding a bit like Leonard Cohen, performs his songs “Down Around My Place” and “I Know A Place.” Paul Rodgers sings “Walk In My Shadows” and “Fire And Water” with his voice in fine shape. The other surprise came hours before the show started: Bonamassa hit the subway stations in NYC with an acoustic guitar and went busking for change. He played his ass off but didn’t earn a single dime for his efforts. The whole thing was filmed so maybe the passersby’s got suspicious when they saw that this particular busker had his own camera crew.
Up near the beginning I implied there’s just one “disc” but actually there’s a second one, containing a handful of extra songs from the concert. His acoustic guitar performance of “Woke Up Dreaming,” done without his band, is arguably his best guitar playing of the whole evening, so it’s advisable not to ignore that second shiny donut in the case.
Those who love or even just like Joe Bonamassa are likely to savor this well produced, well-performed document of a recent show in a great venue. Will it make a lot of skeptical people converts? Probably not, but that’s their loss.
Beacon Theatre – Live From New York, from J&R Adventures, goes on sale on March 27.