On a beautiful Easter Monday holiday Glasgow welcomed American blues guitarist Joe Bonamassa to the aptly nicknamed Armadillo theatre on the edge of the Clyde river. I personally had never had the chance to catch the man himself on one of his own tours as opposed to the supergroup Black Country Communion. In this rather plush venue which is all seated the atmosphere could be best described as laid back. In fact, the audience remained seated for most of the show, but then again we were watching a virtuoso in action. We were informed that the band would be onstage prompt at 8pm. At 7:58 the intro music started and at 8pm they were there onstage playing.
The opening was a recording introducing Muddy Waters where he kicks into what of course is the first track played by Joe and his magnificent band called “Tiger In Your Tank“. The band consisted for the night of 2 backing singers (one definitely called Jade McCrae), saxophonist (Paulie Cerra), trumpet (Lee Thornburg), bassist (Michael Rhodes), drummer (Anton Fig) and keyboards (Reese Wynans) so it was a fabulous sound with the horns adding so much to the show throughout. The set was beautifully paced with a good mix of originals and covers with the mood changing during the evening with some really lively numbers and some really slow extended pieces split throughout the show. During the third song “Evil Mama” a few folks got up to dance. However, the stewards told them to sit back down due to most folks still sitting down. It was a tad strange as some of the songs were made for dancing or jigging but you had to kind of jig in your seat. Whether the unbelievably hot weather had caused folks to more want to stay seated I don’t know.
Not all songs, of course, were lively and rumbustious. For instance “Self Inflicted Wounds” started with a moving trumpet opening where he used what I believe is called a “mute” almost echoing the sound at points before the rest of the band joined in. There was almost a touch of Dave Gilmour/Pink Floyd at points in the song adding another dimension to the music played. “Blues Of Desperation” was darker, an atmospheric number with terrific use of both the sax and trumpet. In fact, in my notes, I put the word “theater” which it was. With mood lighting and the use of instrumentation they created and told a story in the song. There was a slight hint of Fleetwood Mac‘s”Green Manalishi” yet at other points a touch of Rolling Stones as well. One of my highlights of the night.
There were some terrific solos (as to be expected) and for me “Nobody Loves Me But My Mother” had some of the best on the night. A track that made me feel like I was in a smoky blues club in America. He made the guitar sing during this. The keys of Reese added texture and flavor throughout with the horns parping away gloriously in the second half of the song especially. Also impressing me greatly was the wonderfully titled “Just Cos You Can Don’t Mean You Should” with its slightly funky vibe and great use of backing singers along with some fine solos from both Joe and Reese. Throughout the gig all the band are allowed to show their skills and talent, he doesn’t hog the show and his appreciation for each performer up there with him is noticeable.
Joe doesn’t speak too often (folks I spoke to afterwards said that this was the most chat he had done at any shows they had been at) but from tonight I can say he comes over very well and was quite funny. His piece about a “Glasgow Easter Sunday” went down well with the audience as well as his saying that he had played here often enough that he claims to speak 2 languages English and Scots! Even his band intros had good humor about them, with his description of the backing singer’s journey to Glasgow from Australia going over the top (he said they went via half a dozen places) but finishing with the words “not booking via e*****a again” (name withheld to avoid any court case!) causing laughter.
This truly was a show of great skill (for instance “Woke Up Dreaming” the acoustic part of the encore was almost showing off, but utterly captivating and fun) but with joy and enthusiasm which reached out from the stage into a rapturous audience. For over 2 hours we were treated to all different types of blues music, from all eras with some old school rock and a little bit of showmanship. Terrific stuff all round.