Back in March the current Crown Prince of the Blues; Joe Bonamassa played four concerts on four consecutive nights at four different venues in London and this ‘collectors box set’ contains each gig in all it’s powerful glory.
Personally I love live music and have travelled all over the UK to see an assortment of acts; but invariably Concert DVD’s (and albums) leave me nonplussed. So; sitting through 9 hours of concert footage and a further four hours of ‘behind the scenes’ footage has been a helluva chore!
In the interests of professionalism I put a whole day to one side and with some judicial use of the ff button managed to watch everything (in 8 hours) and here are my thoughts.
London was selected for the concerts as each venue has played a major part in Bonamassa’s career; so, starting in chronological order the first DVD is a return to the 200 capacity Borderline Club with just Joe, Anton Figg on drums and Michael Rhodes on bass in front of a specially invited audience; that also includes a smattering of fans. By far this is my favourite, with Spanish Boots, Miss You/Hate You andStory of a Quarryman all being scintillating; although I could have lived without the pub-rock version of Jimi’s Are You Experienced?
The club atmosphere is genuinely ‘electric’ and at times the normally cool and demure guitarist looks like he could spontaneously combust with excitement; as do the fans packing the front of the stage.
The concert at the bigger Shepherd’s Bush Empire is a Blues themed set; allowing the guitarist to pay homage to his heroes; old and new. While Slow Train, So Many Roads and The Great Flood really showcase the New Yorker’s skills but this was also when the FF button first got used, as several tunes went off into meandering solos.
I was pleasantly surprised that a R&B flavoured horn section came into play a few times and it’s an area I’d like to see Joe experiment with; but I guess his fan base would probably disagree.
Next up is the powerhouse Rock and Roll gig at Hammersmith Apollo; This I guess is the one Bonamassa’s fan base will enjoy the most. The gig starts with some acoustic songs; Bad Company’s Seagull and The Faces’ Richmond are particularly memorable but when he launched into Rory Gallagher’s Cradle Rock he recreated the Irish rocker’s fire and brimstone; taking the night went off into a whole new direction. Again the FF button was used; especially during the long and intricate guitar solos (I must be getting old!) but I did enjoy these versions of The Ballad of John Henry and Sloe Gin.
By the time I got around to watching the fourth DVD, Live at Royal Albert Hall I really was suffering from guitar fatigue; but I forced myself to watch it from beginning to end (FFing about 45 minutes though). This concert was billed as a half acoustic/half electric concert showcasing Bonamassa’s most well known songs; but the ones I recognised were all originally written and recorded by other artists. After sitting through the three previous concerts it has been ridiculously difficult to pick out highlights; but Slow Train, Django and Just got paid got watched with less use of the FF button than the rest which was some feat on my behalf.
Each DVD also has about an hour of ‘exclusive’ behind the scenes interviews and hand-held style films of Joe and various members of the entourage talking about Joe and the concerts. None of which manages to really hold the attention; especially his ‘management’ who don’t ever talk about ‘music. A judiciously edited version; including the film of him shopping for guitars could make for an interesting one hour documentary; but four hours very quickly become mind numbing.
I can understand why Bonamassa and his ‘team’ felt that the original concept of four very different gigs spread over five nights was a great idea; and in many ways it works – he really does come alive with a guitar in his hands; but a four DVD box set really will stretch the hardcore fan’s patience and wallet.
photos courtesy and copyright http://jbonamassa.com/