Joe Bonamassa at The Cavern Club, Liverpool

Posted on 28 June 2016
By Chris High
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There are moments in life when you will always remember exactly what you were doing at a particular time. 8 pm, June 27th, 2016, when Joe Bonamassa strolled onto stage at the world famous Cavern Club – spiritual home of The Beatles and so many others – embraced it for himself and proceeded to rip the place apart will,for those there, forever be such a moment.

If you are going to set off on a tribute to three of the most influential guitarists to have ever lived, then start off with a number that is going to set the tone for the evening. Jeff Beck’s Bolero segueing nicely into Rice Pudding is no mean place to begin and what’s clear from the off is that Bonamassa is completely at ease, full of adrenaline and busting to go.

Changing up, changing down, hacking out riffs and blocks like a demon, the man clearly recognises that this is a night designed for blues at its finest, with a hot sweaty atmosphere that can do nothing but add to proceedings. In fact the only thing missing – if missing is the right word – is the heavy pall of cigarette smoke so that we might well believe we’ve been transported back into the 1970s, when music was pure and the sound was exhilarating.

Led Zeppelin’s Boogie With Stu cranked things up still further, whereas the thumping rhythms of Cream’s quite magnificent SWLABR – aided and abetted by the astonishing musicianship of Reece Wynans on keys, Anton Fig on drums, Russ Irwin on guitar and the extraordinary Michael Rhodes on bass – quite simply hammered home what is already widely known: Joe Bonamassa doesn’t do covers. Instead, he takes songs that he adores, twists and turns them into something else and so delivers even more beautifully honed diamonds that are equally as precious as those originally offered.

That he has steered clear of the likes of Black Dog, Layla and Freeway Jam speaks volumes for his desire to bring a freshness to the gig so that the audience can experience songs they may or may not have heard for years – or indeed at all – and so fully appreciate what it is the three men in the spotlight brought to the blues table. Never more is this more evident than during Clapton’s Pretending from the uber-selling Journeyman album, which here is played with such raw power it should have come with a health warning.

Highlights are, well, the show. Standouts however are a magnificent Sloe Gin, which just oozed class, and a quite phenomenal Taxman from The Beatles’ Revolver – did anyone genuinely not expect a doffing of the cap towards The Fab Four this evening? – to close the set on an emotional, octane fuelled high.

Joe Bonamassa: A Tribute to the British Blues Explosion may have started with high expectations but, by its end, these had been more than surpassed so that what transpired was so much more than a gig. It was instead an event that will never, ever be repeated even if Joe Bonamassa lives to be 139.

What a performer. What a show. What a night!

Joe Bonamassa: A Tribute to the British Blues Explosion
The Cavern Club, Liverpool
June 27th, 2016
PR Rating: ***** Off The Scale