Monday, 26 March 2012

Joe Bonamassa at Newcastle Arena - March 25th, 2012 - Wow!

Yep. I've been to see the man himself, again - the fabulous Joe Bonamassa.  Saw him at Newcastle Metro Radio Arena this time, and although I much prefer Newcastle City Hall for this type of gig  (saw him there in October 2010 and I love that venue - really suited him and his music), Joe pulled it off in incredible style and gave us another amazing gig!  One thing that has to be mentioned, though, is that whereas the seats in Newcastle City Hall are comfortable, with arm rests, meaning that you can just sit back and enjoy the show without the fear of your arse going numb halfway through, the Arena seats are hard and plastic, with no arm rests, meaning that you have to shift about a lot more otherwise you literally cannot feel your bum when you get up!  Didn't take away from the enjoyment too much, but it did make me realise how important an arm rest can be at a Joe Bonamassa gig!

Anyway, from the second he stepped out onto that stage he had me totally mesmerised - as usual - kicking off the show last night with Slow Train from his Dust Bowl album, setting the scene for another great night of astounding talent from a man who is truly one of today's rock/blues guitar legends, with a voice that I could - quite frankly - listen to for hours, which is just as well as he was on stage for almost two and a half!  And that two and a half hours just flew by!

Playing tracks that spanned his incredible 13 year career, Joe pulled out every stop he possibly could with songs that just kept on coming, from the out-and-out rock feel of The Ballad of John Henry to the always beautiful Sloe Gin, a Joe Bonamassa classic that never fails to disappoint.  Highlight for me had to be - well, it's so difficult to choose a highlight from a gig that didn't throw up one bad, or even mediocre, track, but when Joe took to the stage completely alone, just him and his guitar, and belted out an incredible version of Woke Up Dreaming, that was pretty spectacular in my eyes.  Nobody else I've ever seen can take over a stage like that doing nothing but standing there playing a guitar, but he does it like it's the most natural thing in the world.  The man is a true legend.

From the mesmerising Steal Your Heart Away to the cracking title track from his new album Driving into the Daylight and then the final encore - a rousing version of Just Got Paid, Joe Bonamassa did what he's best at; rocking out like nobody else can do, with a talent that has almost definitely guaranteed him a long, long future as one of the greatest guitar legends of our time.  He deserved every second of that final standing ovation last night.

Didn't take any photos, unfortunately, because my smartphone camera is rubbish and seems devoid of anything resembling a flash but, even though I was close - I mean, not close enough to see the whites of his eyes or anything, which was impossible anyway as he was wearing dark glasses - I wasn't close enough to get any really decent shots.  A shame, because I would have liked some memories to look back on, but you never really forget a Joe Bonamassa gig.  Ever.

And he also said something really interesting as he introduced the title track from his soon-to-be-released new album.  Something that makes you really think about the state of today's current music scene.  He said that after 13 years, and 13 albums, he has had precisely zero hits.  And he knows that he will have precisely zero hits from this new album too.  But does that matter?  No.  It doesn't.  Because he is a true musician, a man who goes out there and works and tours and makes album after album and has a worldwide following that is just huge.  And did he achieve any of that through a talent show?  Or by having God knows how many number one hits?  No. None of that.  Because if you are a true and talented artist then none of that matters.  He did it because he makes increidble music, puts on incredible live gigs, and works hard.  And it's a pity the music industry today doesn't focus more on that rather than juding someone on how high their song charts, and pointless crap like that.  But then, it's all about the money men really, isn't it?  Hits = money to them, and whether an act is actually any good or not really doesn't come into it anymore and that's a crying shame.
Because people like Joe Bonamassa don't need hype to be a success.  He's let his music speak for itself.  And long live true artists like him.  Because we need them!

So, it was a fabulous gig, absolutely no doubt about that, and it was great for a  number of reasons - one: for over two and a half hours I cared not a jot about how many books I was selling or what my rankings were - I actually forgot I was a struggling writer for those blissful few hours.  All that mattered was watching Joe, up there, playing out of his skin!
I had a cracking view of Joe and the whole stage - really good seats, considering I had the cheapest price bracket of ticket.  I could see everything! - and watching the man do what he does, with no fancy stage set, no mind-blowing light show, and then realising I'd only spent £30 to witness all of this (take note Take That - you don't have to bleed your fans dry to give an amazing gig!), well, it beggared belief, really.

Mind you, being the geek that I am, and because I've got a performing arts past that has seen me involved with lighting, stage sets, all of that malarkey, I did spend about 5 minutes of one song watching a roadie fanny about with a sound amp at the side of the stage, then look over to the lighting guy to check out his desk, I couldn't help meself!  That stuff fascinates the hell out of me!

But not much else could distract me from Joe himself.  Pity that couldn't be said about more of the audience though.  I mean, he'd been on stage for over half an hour and people were still turning up late, trying to find their seats, interrupting everyone else who'd got there on time's enjoyment.  And then there was the constant getting up every five minutes to go buy beer followed by a round of getting up to visit the toilet, followed by more beer (this was pretty much the pattern of a couple of blokes to my right last night).  I'm amazed half of them actually managed to see any of the gig at all!  Nothing could have made me get up and miss a second of anything last night.  Nothing.
I mean, case in point was when Joe had spent over ten minutes holding the audience in the palm of his hand with that stunning rendition of Woke Up Dreaming; but the second he'd played the last note half the audience decided to get up for a toilet break just as he launched into the truly stunning India/Mountain Time!  Couldn't believe it!  Probably one of the most beautiful tracks Joe has ever performed live and people saw fit to miss it!  Put the frigging beer down and just enjoy the show!

Anyway, enough of my ranting.  It was a fabulous night, another gig that I'll remember for a long, long time, but I'm still not keen on Newcastle Arena as a venue for the type of artist Joe is.  He suits smaller venues.  People seemed to be up and down a lot less when I saw him play at Newcastle City Hall, and the chairs are way more comfortable in the smaller venues!  But, having said that, it doesn't matter where that guy plays, I'll be there to see him.  And he better hurry back to Newcastle soon, because I'm getting withdrawal symptoms already...

Thank you, Joe Bonamassa, for another night of incredible music! 

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