Hammersmith Apollo, March 19, 2015 • Reviewed by Charlie Ingram
Some would say that blues is dead. And sadly they wouldn't be totally wrong.
Take a look at the Billboard 100 or the UK charts and there is not a single blues artist to be seen. It is a tragedy that this vibrant and diverse genre is so under-represented. But there is a vanguard. A group of musicians that refuse to let blues – the American genre that went on to spawn British acts like The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and Eric Clapton, who in turn inspired a new generation of US artists – fade out of existence. At the head of this vanguard is Joe Bonamassa.
Currently rounding up his tour in the UK, Bonamassa has shown his mettle as a world class live performer and technical player, selling out venues and even deciding to come back to the UK in October later this year for some extra tour dates. And given the performance he gave at the Hammersmith Apollo recently, I'm not at all surprised.
In total darkness, the band built tension for an eager crowd with an ever intensifying instrumental prelude until Bonamassa exploded into 'Hey Baby' and spoiled the audience with over an hour of uninterrupted sound. The performance was as emotionally expressive as it was technically awesome, with Bonamassa clearly feeling right at home at the front of an equally impressive band. The roller coaster of feelings and the expression in his playing were enchanting, ranging from the funky upbeat rhythms of 'Trouble Town' all the way down to the slow and sullen melodies of 'Sloe Gin'. This barrage was enough to keep you on your toes for the whole show, and only at the end of an intense performance of 'Ballad of John Henry' at the climax of the set did you have time to stop and think.
Bonamassa really takes you on a tour of the world of blues. Every branch, every fusion, all masterfully presented to you in a two hour set that was truly magical. For any music fan, Joe Bonamassa, is a must see.
So is blues dead? So long as Bonamassa is playing, it definitely is not.