At the risk of being a nut… I want to start this review with a
story about The Lone Ranger.
The Lone Ranger.
To start a review of Joe Bonamassa performing at Chan’s on March
me luck. Here we go…)
he performed in literally dozens of productions, Clayton Moore
will always be best known for his efforts as The Lone Ranger.
(His IMDb page actually shows a picture of him in character, with
the mask. And, to be honest, I believe he will always be considered
the definitive actor to play the role.) A few years ago I was
at an assembly where a story was told about Moore. With over seventy-five
productions listed for his television credentials, not only was
he well-known by his peers, but he was respected by them as well.
During one effort, he walked in, sat down with the people working
on the project, and was as friendly and cordial as anyone could
have hoped. When it was time for him to put on his wardrobe, Moore
went off to his dressing room alone, and came out, mask in place,
as The Lone Ranger. People that worked with him later spoke of
a transformation that took place between the Moore they had met
earlier and the Moore wearing the mask. In each situation he was
polite, accommodating and impressive. But when he had that mask
on, Moore seemed taller to most of them. He also seemed more confident…
a second where he wasn’t pleasant or respected.
completely different… strikingly different… presence from one
moment to another.
now back to Joe…
March 17th, I arrived at Chan’s. I had the good fortune to
be interviewing Joe, and was taking my stepson
and his friend along to talk to him as well. My wife was there
with us, and two friends were joining us later for dinner and
met a woman at the counter, introduced myself and explained why
I was there. She took me through a door into the show room, where
Joe… yes, that was definitely Joe, but he wasn’t wearing his trademark
sunglasses… was standing at the side of the stage. Before the
woman could explain why there was a man and two teenagers staring
from across the room, he gave a look of recognition that explained
he was expecting us, and politely indicated it would be just a
the next few seconds, he let us know exactly what was going on,
introduced himself to several of the staff members while promising
to try to remember their names, and then sat down for our interview.
He gave us more than thirty minutes of his time, which was no
small allowance on the third night of four straight days with
performances, just two hours before the first of two shows that
evening. To say he was generous and accommodating wouldn’t do
justice to how well he treated us.
mention all of this as background because of what happened at
8pm. Because until this particular evening, I had never actually
seen a true example of the Clayton Moore story… I had only heard
walked through a side door and entered the room. But this was
not the same Joe Bonamassa that we had met earlier. The sunglasses
were on. The t-shirt had been replaced by a dress shirt of a style
that many fans are familiar with. And there was a confidence…
a presence that wasn’t the same. I can’t say that he seemed taller
to me, but he was definitely in control.
6pm, he was walking around, running through checklists, and was
concerned by all the little things. And during all of that, he
remained attentive and personable to us as we ran through our
8pm he was fully in his element. The foundation… the set-up… was
complete. And he had transformed into the stage personality that
people had packed the room to see… and none of us would leave
is still working as the front man of a power trio. In the
band for the past few months have been bassist Mark Epstein and
drummer Bogie Bowles. Mark brings an impressive resume along,
including efforts with Johnny Winter. Bogie will be familiar to
many of Bonamassa’s fans, having shared some stages and bills
with Joe previously while working with Kenny Wayne Shepherd. Both
of them provided a strong backing that Bonamassa used quite well.
While the songs were familiar to most of the audience, everyone
was commenting about how fresh they sounded and how much the band
seemed to enjoy playing. This is a trio that hopefully will be
performing together for quite some time.
show opened with what has become almost a signature first number,
“Takin’ the Hit.” Justin (my stepson) tapped me as the second
song, “Walk in My Shadows” was played. He told me that this version
was much slower than he was familiar with. A few songs during
the evening would stay pretty close to Joe’s normal versions (most
notably “Takin’ the Hit,” “Mountain Time” and “Burning Hell”),
but this would not be the only time he veered away from his standard
interpretations. Later, during a two-song acoustic set where he
was alone on the stage, “Miss You, Hate You” would get an altered
presentation from the album/video version.
Time” was an exceptional effort. A Bonamassa original, it tends
to be overshadowed at times. Simply put… when one or two songs
during an evening’s performance are staggering and brilliant,
the very good ones will have a tendency to get less credit than
they deserve. And yet, “Mountain Time” also stands out as one
of the most fulfilling and emotionally rewarding songs in his
songs currently associated with his upcoming release, You
and Me (set to hit stores in the United States on June 6,
2006), were incorporated into the ninety-five minute set of the
first show. “Bridge to Better Days” was played in the first third
of the evening, and “Asking Around for You” closed out the encore.
If these two songs are any indication of the overall quality,
You and Me could become the breakout album that brings
Joe outstanding sales and a few new awards.
roaring through two acoustic pieces that simply dazed the audience,
Joe shook his hand out while noting “it’s not as easy as it looks.”
Later in the set there was a slight pause during a song, and from
behind me a voice shouted “you make it look easy.” Joe was bent
over his guitar at that point… he arched his eyebrows, peered
over his glasses into the audience, smirked a bit, and lit into
the closing of the song.
his set list looks shorter than you might expect… Joe routinely
plays a show of around eleven to fourteen songs… the night was
not lacking of anything. And with a second set slated for the
evening, it was actually a bit surprising for how long it ran
and how complete it was. Most songs reached about eight to ten
minutes, but were so engaging that the length was never an issue.
and Bogie are extraordinary musicians. Neither was flashy, and
you could tell that they were absolutely comfortable with the
idea that there was no need to be. They provided Joe with a strong
foundation from the beginning of the set until the end, and all
three worked brilliantly together.
yet thirty, Joe has been performing with some of the biggest names
in music for almost two decades. You and Me will be his
fifth studio effort since 2001. (New Day Yesterday
was released in 2001, followed by So, It’s Like That,
Blues Deluxe and Had to Cry Today. He has also
released live albums and DVDs… New Day Yesterday Live
and Live at Rockpalast.) This is a busy guy that is building
quite a foundation to draw upon.
the souvenir stand there was a t-shirt… one that a few people
were wearing variations of. Joe’s name was on the shirt, and it
said “always on the road.” During my interview, when I asked him
about a ridiculous tour schedule that went from England in February
to over fifteen different states and twenty concerts in March
then back to Europe in April, he said he was just “building fans,
one at a time.” After a simply stunning performance on this evening,
I can’t guarantee Joe a platinum album, but I can guarantee that
he and his band earned more than one new fan on this night.
~ ~ ~
Bonamassa really is just about “always on the road.” Between April
4th and April 29th, he was scheduled to play on twenty-one days,
hitting Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands. He
returns to the United States with performances beginning in early
May, and his summer schedule is beginning to fill in. You can
find out more information on his live performance schedule, including
the most accurate and up to date details, in the
tour section of his web site.
~ ~ ~
set list from the 8pm show on Friday, March 17th
Walk in My Shadows
Bridge to Better Days
A New Day Yesterday
Miss You, Hate You (solo – acoustic)
Woke Up Dreaming (solo – acoustic)
Asking Around for You