Joe Bonamassa – Live at Cobb Energy Centre (Atlanta)

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On the way to this concert, I was in a “preparatory blues” mindset, specifically a Rory Gallagher bootleg from Kansas City in 1974.  Gallagher, today, is one of those unheard of blues guitarists who mattered back then, but never found widespread success due to the lack of songs with commercial appeal… as well as a heartfelt but lacking voice… as well as lyrics which meant something to him but often fell short on the listener (unless the listener had alcohol demons).  The second song in that set was a roaring “Cradle Rock,” imparted with an “of the moment” attitude played right from the heart.

The opening of song of Joe Bonamassa’s two hour set was… “Cradle Rock,” expertly played with fast fingerings and gotcha tones, delivered to the audience with Guitar Hero poses.  The guy can flat out play, but where was the soul?

I’m not a big fan of Bonamassa; in fact, the reason I went to this show was to go  with a friend who is very much a fan.  He had mentioned Bonamassa to me several years back, and I’m not exactly difficult to persuade to go to a concert.  To get a free download of a very good song off of his previous CD (“Dust Bowl,” I had to enter my email address (fair deal, btw)), after which approximately every two weeks came an offer for a Joe Bonamassa lithograph or other merchandise.   Fandom gone corporate, and, if guilty of judging by appearances, then I’m definitely convicted.


The second song, “When the Fire Hits the Sea,” did nothing to change my opinion.  It’s a throwaway, big beat rocker designed to highlight Bonamassa’s guitar theatrics.  There’s definite showmanship, but where’s the emotion?

“Midnight Blues,” that’s where. Sure, every note is just as rehearsed, but “Joe”, as the crowd frequently shouted, slowed it down a bit, stretching his sound into nuances, sustains, careful note-bending expressions.  Mighty fine stuff.  “Dust Bowl,” the one song of his that I know, sounded, great, never losing it’s ol’ time roots while building to a rocking kill shot.   I’m convinced that Bonamassa sounds best when he starts a song slow, whether he builds from it or not.


Bonamassa took a break before “The Ballad of John Henry” to talk to the audience a bit, mostly about the venues in Atlanta in which he’s played over the years.  The song itself (“the closest thing I’ve ever had IMG_5628ato a hit”) was very well done, with music paired to the lyric very well.

More so-so rockers (the songs, not the guitar) were included, but finally Joe dismissed the band to settle into an acoustic guitar (“Woke Up Dreaming,” expertly picking and ultimately rocking for over 10 minutes.  This was the best stuff of the show.

Otherwise, Bonamassa showed good humor, particularly when foiling against his entertaining drummer, and finally remarking how grateful he is to be where he is.

Do I think he’s still corporate?  Well, no, and though he’s always been predisposed to wearing sunglasses, the shorter hair and suits are relatively late in his 10 year or so career.  Still, it’s clear he, or is management, is very imagebusiness minded, further evidenced by cards with QR codes left outside directing traffic to his website.

The Cobb Energy Centre offered excellent acoustics and engaging lighting to off-set a relatively plain stage set.  The sold-out show drew a good mix of people, some dressed as might be expected for a performing arts venue, and others more accustomed to standing in front of a stage raising a beer, the latter veryIMG_5652a pleased to hear their own voices talking to Joe during quieter parts.   That’s why it’s called a performance and not a recording – artist’s get audience feedback.

Bonamassa is an artist I’ll keep an ear open towards, mostly for his guitar.  His voice and lyrics are better than Gallagher’s, and while his guitar playing doesn’t connect at a deep level, the preciseness, speed, and, at times, masterful tones are a beautiful thing to hear.




Cradle Rock
When the Fire Hits the Sea
Midnight Blues
Slow Train
Dust Bowl
You Better Watch Yourself
Sloe Gin
Ballad of John Henry
Lonesome Road Blues
Happier Times
Steal your heart away
Blues Deluxe 
Young Man blues
Woke up Dreaming
Mountain Time
Bird on a Wire
Just Got Paid

1 comment :

  1. I was first turned on to JB this past summer while visiting a friend in Jax, FL. My friend's husband is a huge music freak, and at some point, came across this guy named Joe Bonamassa. He had some of his music downloaded and played it for me, at which time, I was completely impressed and so he burned me a copy to listen to going back home to Atlanta. And boy did I ever listen~~blasted it all the way home. Then I joined his website so as to keep up with him, bought Sloe Gin and Dust Bowl. Then I found out he was coming to Atlanta in concert, which I immediately bought tix~~we had great seats, 10 rows back. My husband and I were completely blown away at his talent and all of those guitars! I will never miss another concert as I now know who the greatest guitar player in the world is. I would be nuts to miss out on such amazing music. It was totally fantastic, he played nonstop for 2 hours. Incredible!