Review: Joe Bonamassa, Barclaycard Arena, Birmingham

At just 12 years old, he played opening sets for blues royalty BB King - and now, at the age of 38, he is widely-renowned as one of today's greatest guitarists.

Review: Joe Bonamassa, Barclaycard Arena, Birmingham

Joe Bonamassa performs at the Barclaycard Arena, picture: Mark Lloyd

I can, of course, only be talking about New York blues icon Joe Bonamassa.

Performing to a crowd of more than 4,000 fans at Birmingham's Barclaycard Arena last night, the 38-year-old star's show began by plunging the venue into darkness, and - after playing lines from characters such as Krusty the Clown and Sideshow Bob from the Simpsons - the sounds of Johnny Cash's Walk The Line filled the room.

Then, one by one, each incredibly talented member of the band were revealed by a bright spotlight as they began to play - first was the superb pianist and keys player Reese Wynans, followed by Joe himself, before the rest of the group were unveiled.

Joe, dressed in a suave, fitted black suit with slicked-back hair and tinted glasses, impressed fans right away with intricate, thrilling guitar solos and great velvety, wide-ranging vocals.

His band, meanwhile, were tremendous - and throughout their entire two-and-a-half-hour performance alongside Joe, not a single note or beat was out of time. Joe and his band were incredibly professional and worked together like a perfectly harmonised, well-oiled machine.

They played a range of songs, new and old; and even showcased material from Joe's latest studio album Blues of Desperation - set to be released on March 25. 

And the album's title track sounded incredible. An atmospheric yet heavier piece, this thrilling number had explosive brass sounds from the sax and trumpet duo, above mean, deep guitar riffs and smooth vocals from Joe.

Another number off his latest album - named No Good Place for The Lonely - followed, which showcased Joe's phenomenal guitar skills and strong, range-spanning voice.

And, as song after song came, so did Joe's different guitars - a red electric first, followed by a flying v guitar and one of his trademark gold-coloured Gibsons. Bonamassa's extensive guitar collection is one of the greatest in the world.

As, without doubt, are his tremendous guitar skills - shown frequently through awesome solos, which saw the crowd whoop and cheer as he astonished with his thrilling, lightning-speed finger work and incredible skill.

Excellent, powerful renditions of better-known numbers such as Ballad of John Henry and Sloe Gin also had crowds swaying their arms and singing along.

Besides Joe, highlight of the show was the incredibly talented pianist Reese, whose intricate jaw-dropping playing saw him swap almost instantaneously from the large black piano facing the crowd, to the keyboard on his right, throughout the set.

A phenomenal night with a legend and his many highly-talented band members. A real treat - and one fans will hopefully be able to see in Birmingham again very soon.

By Kirsten Rawlins
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