Joe Bonamassa: British Blues Explosion Live

Joe Bonamassa | British Blues Explosion Live

(Photo: Christie Goodwin)

Almost two years have passed since Joe Bonamassa played Greenwich Music Time Festival. And yet, as the guitarist plays the opening notes of ‘Beck’s Bolero’, one’s immediately transported back to that warm summer night in July 2016 when, on the grounds of historic Old Naval College, Bonamassa paid his respects to the stars of the British blues explosion.

Against a giant Union Jack backdrop, the New York-native masterfully performed songs from across the Atlantic, most recorded more than a decade before he was born. Perhaps the setting, more likely his lifelong love of the music of Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page, enabled the singer and guitarist to perform some of the most quintessential tracks of the past 50 years with just the right balance of reverence and reinterpretation. Not unlike Hendrix transforming Dylan’s ‘All Along The Watchtower’, or Joe Cocker making ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’ his own, on that one night in London Bonamassa and his four-piece band created quintessential renditions for a new generation.

Even without the visuals, on the 2 CD edition of ‘British Blues Explosion Live’, the confidence, swagger, and sheer talent required to take on such bonafide classics and carefully selected obscurities is blindingly obvious. Just take a listen to the sweat-and-blood makeover of Cream’s ‘SWLABR’ which not just adds a steaming instrumental section but vigorously blows any cobwebs off the 50-year-old ‘Disraeli Gears’ track.

On stage that night, it was all down to the shared talents of Bonamassa, drummer Anton Fig, bassist Mike Rhodes, keyboard player Reese Wynans, and multi-instrumentalist Russ Irwin. But on this album, Bonamassa’s longtime producer Kevin Shirley (who has intimate knowledge of mixing Led Zeppelin concert audio) is due as much credit as the five men who were up on that stage overlooking the River Thames.

Just like the singer-guitarist’s previous live offerings, especially ‘Live At The Greek’ which honoured Freddie, Albert, and BB King, ‘British Blues Explosion Live’ crackles with all the spontaneity, excitement, and raw power of a live performance. It’s so vivid, you can almost feel the few drops of rain that fell early on that July evening.

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