Joe Bonamassa: Live at the Greek Theatre Review

Another month, another release by Joe Bonamassa. We joke, but listeners familiar with Bonamassa know it’s not too much of a stretch. At 39, the guitar legend who cut his teeth touring with B.B. King before his teenage years churns out studio, live and collaborative albums like clockwork, with his most recent, Blues of Desperation, released earlier this year. Bonamassa returns to the live format on Live at the Greek Theatre, a performance that was recorded on August 29, 2015 in Los Angeles as Bonamassa culminated “The Three Kings,” a tour honoring Albert King, B.B. King and Freddie King.

With the “three kings” as Bonamassa’s backdrop, this double live album breathes new life into some of the bluesmen’s most popular songs. Bonamassa was well-equipped on this tour to do so: his performance at the Greek Theatre featured drummer Anton Fig, guitarist Kirk Fletcher, bassist Michael Rhodes, pianist and organist Reese Wynans, trumpeter Lee Thornburg, saxophonists Paulie Cerra and Ron Dziubla, and singers Mahalia Barnes, Jade MacRae and Juanita Tippins. Bonamassa made the most of his support system, lending his performance a big band element that spun the songs in new directions. Bonamassa’s version of “Let the Good Times Roll” is not unlike B.B. King’s: it’s just a little bigger, a little fuller. Barnes, MacRae and Tippins emphasized this grander feel, especially on “Ole Time Religion” and “Sittin’ on the Boat Dock,” the first of which transcends into gospel while the latter adopts a deep emotional quality.

“Sittin’ on the Boat Dock” stands out for the band’s playing as much as for its vocal accompaniment. The horns and keys accenting Bonamassa’s early verses are a nice nod to Freddie King’s original recording. Meanwhile, Bonamassa’s performance here – both vocal and guitar, with a strong solo by Fletcher – is rich and full, fitting of the song in a way that one can imagine Freddie would respect. Bonamassa’s interpretation of “Hummingbird” is similarly strong: his vocals are deep and soulful, serving as the prelude to minutes of unrestrained soloing and riffing with the band. When the album concludes with “Riding with the Kings” as an encore, Bonamassa leaves his audience with the feeling that, while many artists can and should play the music of these legendary blusemen, no one can do it quite like him.

The Review: 8/10

Can’t Miss Tracks

– Sittin’ on the Boat Dock
– Cadillac Assembly Line
– Ole Time Religion
– Boogie Woogie Woman
– Born Under a Bad Sign
– Let the Good Times Roll

The Big Hit

– Let the Good Times Roll

Review by Meghan Roos

Buy the album: Amazon

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One Response to “Joe Bonamassa: Live at the Greek Theatre Review”

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