Joe Bonamassa

State Theater, New Brunswick, NJ

Joe Bonamassa
State Theater, New Brunswick, NJ
March 14, 2019
Article & Photographs By Estelle Massry
Additional Article Contributions by Dennis Morgillo
The Blues has come to New Jersey! 
Joe Bonamassa is the face and sound of modern day blues. Joe was a child whiz kid on the guitar and has been playing since birth. He opened for BB King at age 12. When I was 12 I was playing wiffle ball in my driveway, and this guy is playing guitar with BB King! 
Before he reached 18 years old, Bonamassa was playing in a band called Bloodline with the sons of Miles Davis, Robby Krieger, and Berry Oakley. I bet you didn't know that!? It was a great band and should have been huge, but it did attract attention to Bonamassa's guitar skills.
13 solo albums, countless Live Albums and collaborations have created an impressive catalog and lasting legacy. The man is in his prime and his latest album "Redemption" was released in 2018 to critical and commercial acclaim. 

In the last 3 years alone, Joe has released 2 solo albums, 3 live albums, an album with "Black Country Communion", an album with "Rock Candy Funk Party" and the album "Black Coffee" with Beth Hart. That's something!
Bonamassa is the Blues! The Blues at it's best. Joe comes out on the impressive State Theater stage looking sharp. His hair is slicked back, with his signature shades and crisp suit, the man looks cool AF. 
Joe doesnt waste any time and let's the music do the talking. He blisters through a rocking version of Muddy Waters "Tiger in Your Tank" complete with a   killer guitar solo. 
Joe's band is a big, 8 piece band, with some of the best musicians on the planet. Reese Wynans on Keyboards, the rock n roll legend played with Stevie Ray Vaughan and is in the Rock Hall of Fame. Anton Fig on Drums, an incredible session drummer best known for his many years with David Letterman. Michael Rhodes on Bass, Lee Thornburg on Trumpet, and Paulie Cerra on Sax. Last but not least, 2 beautiful backup singers from Australia, Jade MacRae and Juanita Tippins, who sing like angels. 

Bonamassa switches guitar for every song and it's like a guitar museum up there. Joe is a big collector and he is displaying his wares tonight. Strats, Les Pauls, Epiphones, Telecasters, you name it, he plays it, and plays it incredibly well. I love the blues and I love guitars, I am in heaven. 

Joe is ripping through the set without saying a word. "King Bee", "Evil Mama" and my favorite "Just Cos You Can, Don't Mean You Should". Joe doesnt waste his notes, he definitely spends them on the blues. Rapid fire runs are mixed in with single note bends that sustain for minutes. Eaach note rips your heart out. His playing is impressive.  

Halfway through the set, Bonamassa delights the audience with an hysterical story of how he has toured the world over the last 30 years, but in all that time he has never played New Brunswick, NJ. His life goal is met now, but that half the band was lost in a pothole on the New Jersey Turnpike. "Vienna, Austria aint got nothing on you guys" laughed Joe Bonamassa in a good natured ribbing. He is a funny guy. 

It is a night of heart wrenching guitar solos, but Joe does not get enough credit for his singing. He has a great soulful bluesy voice, that can growl with the best of them but can also be soft and sensitive when needed. 

There were a lot of highlights tonight and a lot of surprises. I loved "Sloe Gin" which is a Tim Curry cover, and the Leon Russell cover "Hummingbird". There was a beautiful organ solo by Reese Wynans and a Piano intro that teased us with Jethro Tull's "Locomotive Breath". A call and response back and forth between Joe and Bassist Michael Rhodes. I loved the Willie Dixon/Led Zep cover of "I Can't Quit You Baby" and the closer "Mountain Time". Basically the whole show was a highlight. 

You want to know how great this show was tonight!? I looked around and I noticed that very few people in the sold out crowd of 2K fans, were on their phone. They were not videoing the entire show, not taking endless pictures or on social media. They were all in the moment, enjoying the finest blues guitarist around. That, in the year 2019, is an amazing compliment. 
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