Joe Bonamassa: Live – Austin City Limits Gig Review

Our ears parched from months of concert deprivation, tune-heads like myself can’t help but pounce on any chance to return to the bliss of live music. When offered a virtual ticket to Joe Bonamassa’s latest live stream, I graciously accepted and put it in my virtual pocket. Live music in-person might be better, but live music in any form must be valued at a premium these days.

Joe Bonamassa’s Live at The Ryman Auditorium filled a void with it’s unusual premise and excellent music. The outstanding performance outshone the cardboard cutouts and odd inter-song breaks—no small feat considering the surreal atmosphere. Bonamassa and company put on a unique show, and I think its promise had something to do with the deluge of comments (700+) posted in anticipation of the hybrid Austin City Limits show.

Less than a minute after ticket-time, the show started with a few sponsor spots. Normally an annoying part of modern media consumption, the placements here centered around repairing the music community. Keeping The Blues Alive and Fueling Musicians are causes that hit home. When Peter Frampton offers his thoughts about the state of music, it’s worth listening to. Listening to the musicians speaking about this past year is enlightening. I guess I never really understood how much I took for granted, live-music at my feet.

The opening notes of “Oh Beautiful” screamed into my ears. Camera angles and sound distribution aside, the production was impeccable. I jostled between “big-screen” TV and my computer. I settled for the sound of my headphones. Immediately I was taken aback by Jade MacRae. The effortless fusion of her voice with Joe’s was worth the price of admission alone. Joe later quoted his band as “A Power Quartet.” He’s not wrong, they pushed the power trio angle through their music, but Jade drives a different dimension with her voice and pure power.

Joe Bonamassa performs at Austin City Limits (Photo: Allison Morgan)

Not that the crew lacks power. When Anton Fig and Steve Mackey provide the ummph to the sound, you’re on the right track. Some of the show’s best moments exist between the interplay of Fig and Mackey. Saying that, Joe is still on fire. Dedication to “Midnight Blues” by Gary Moore and the homages to SRV and Clapton hit the note. Joe amicably spoke about his life in a way that most artists would never bare. Don’t think for a moment that his admission about his guitar is false.

“Beyond The Silence” was great. He pinned “Scuttle Buttin”.

And he was palpably nervous about playing that song in Austin.

Yes, he played “The Ballad of John Henry.” Yes, he played “Blues Deluxe.” Two hours later, those that listened came to our senses. I could not understand “Woke Up Dreaming.” The virtuosity was so far over my head, yet it was my favorite song of the night. With the sound-hole covered, he went through a laundry-list of guitar styles, and ended the idea by bringing the band back for “Crossroads.”

The only fault of this show was that it was online. There is nothing like “fist-pounding” a stranger at a show, laughing hysterically at a great guitar passage, enjoying the camaraderie of being out and alive, at a concert. That can’t be faulted on Mr. Bonamassa and crew. I hope that they put this up for re-viewing. 

It was a great show.

Willie Witten

Willie Witten spends entirely too much time lost in music. Guitars, amplifiers, and random instruments litter his house, yet he continues to build more equipment in his workshop. When not playing guitar, or meditating under headphones, you might catch him at a concert. A walking encyclopedia of music for sure, but the man is obsessed.

3 thoughts on “Joe Bonamassa: Live – Austin City Limits Gig Review

  • Wow,what an awesome perfomance!I’ve followed Joe since he was a young boy living just 15 miles from his childhood family home!

  • I was fortunate enough to be in the live audience in Austin for the show. I’ve always admired what the singers bring to the band, but have never really heard Jade by herself. That woman can sing! What a powerful voice! The show was great; looking forward to the DVD so I can relieve that night.

  • I love Joe’s voice, but I’ve thought for a while that he should do more with the ladies taking vocal leads.


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