The last time I saw Joe Bonamassa perform live was over four years ago, and since then, his set list has received a complete overhaul. Gone are longtime staples “Sloe Gin,” “Mountain Time,” “The Ballad of John Henry,” etc., in exchange for songs from recent releases like Blues of Desperation and Live at the Greek Theatre.
This show took place on a perfect Wednesday night (October 18th) in Sacramento at the Memorial Auditorium. The fans waited outside for the doors to open at 7:00 PM before entering the Memorial Auditorium which seats over 3,000 people. As always, the show began promptly at 8:00 PM kicking off with “This Train” followed by the thunderous “Mountain Climbing” and “Blues of Desperation.” “No Good Place For The Lonely” is another track off Blues of Desperation and was a definite highlight of the night with a soaring guitar solo that brought the crowd to its feet.
These days Bonamassa is traveling with an 8-piece band. He’s joined by Anton Fig on the drums, who Bonamassa called the best drummer in the world. Michael Rhodes is the bassist, Reese Wynans of Double Trouble fame on keys, who got a big time ovation from the crowd, and Jade MacRae and Juanita Tippins on backing vocals. There’s also a horn section featuring Paulie Cerra and Lee Thronburg.
Bonamassa did go back in the catalog with “Driving Towards The Daylight,” “Slow Train” from Dust Bowl, and “Last Kiss” from The Ballad of John Henry. The night also saw the return of Bonamassa’s guitar “The Trash Bag V.”
There were also plenty of covers sprinkled in with the encore, Leon Russell’s “Hummingbird,” as perhaps the standout track of the night. Tippins and MacRae’s soaring vocals really shine here to compliment Bonamassa’s playing.
There were little breaks during the set. Anton Fig did have an extended drum solo and Bonamassa took some time to thank the fans for coming out and mentioned how he always enjoys returning to Sacramento as a state resident of California (Los Angeles). He also joked with an expletive about how Los Angeles and Sacramento have the same problems with roads, which prompted laughs from the crowd.
Overall, the concert lasted nearly two and a half hours from start to finish and the sound was stellar. There’s quite a bit that goes into Bonamassa’s concerts with a huge crew involved and it’s definitely a well oiled machine.
Review by Pete Francis