Raw, True Emotion — Joe Bonamassa Delivers a Transcendental Experience

Review by Jamie Varga, photos by Patrick Chondon

Raw, true emotion; the ingredient that makes a concert step into the realm of becoming an experience. Seen in the faces of the performers, it makes you believe in the music and when they can take it to the next level they make you feel it as well. Joe Bonamassa has mastered the ability to take an audience to this higher plane and, last Wednesday, 1,500 transcended souls attended his show at the TBCA.

Trudging through his humble beginnings, Bonamassa’s career started out slow, by breaking onto the scene at the age of 12 opening for smaller acts like BB King, and then evolved from there. All sarcasm aside, Bonamassa has more than earned his spot among the greatest guitarists of all time and seeing him now at the age 40 is more like bearing witness to a true master than just going to see an amazing blues concert.

The experience was a delicious blend of old and new over the course of a two-and-a-half-hour marathon of music, starting with “This Train,” “Mountain Climbing” and the title track off his latest album Blues of Desperation. Working through it all with Bonamassa was his world class band of great artists: Anton Fig (David Letterman Band) on drums, Reese Wynans (Double Trouble) on keys, and Michael Rhodes (…everybody) on bass, as well as stellar horns and back up singers.

This talented and classy ensemble sent us home by playing some Albert King and Led Zeppelin covers and then encored us with Leon Russel’s “Hummingbird” like I’ve never heard it. As a side note, I don’t think I will ever be the same after hearing Bonamassa do “How Many More Times.” I think it’s safe to say that Thunder Bay was once again privy to one of the phenoms out there keeping the blues alive—he did say he would be back sooner than later, so keep your ears open for his next visit.