June 4th, 2007
This was my first time at Alexandria's legendary Birchmere music hall, even though I used to live right up the street from the damn place for over a year back in the mid-90's. I can safely say that this will not be my last visit though, because the Birchmere is easily one of the best venues of its kind to catch your favorite band. The music hall comfortably seats about 500 people, and there is not a bad seat in the place. Although my wife and I sat in the very back row, we were still only about 100 feet from the stage, and I could not have had a better view. And the food (and drink) were excellent too.
Opening for Joe Bonamassa this night was Crosby Loggins, son of Kenny Loggins, who performed a solo acoustic set lasting about 30 minutes. When I first saw his name on the bill, I told my wife that he had to be related to Kenny Loggins – mostly because I have never heard of anyone else with the name Loggins other then Kenny. I guess I need to get out to California more often. My curiosity was immediately laid to rest when Crosby took the stage, because he is the spitting image of his father, and his vocals are amazingly similar. His laid back acoustic set ended on a strong note with a fiery performance of Fleetwood Mac's "World Turning", which set the perfect tone for what would soon follow.
Since there was really no set change to be had, other than Loggins carrying his guitar off the stage, Joe and his band hit the stage 15 minutes later, at about 8:30 PM. I was surprised to see a set of keyboards at stage right, since Joe has never really performed with a keyboard player in his live band before, as far as I know, although Rick Melick was featured on Bonamassa's last album, You & Me. Joining Joe and Rick on stage were legendary bassist Carmine Rojas, and the great Bogie Bowles on drums.
Joe opened up with a scorching "Bridge To Better Days", followed by "Walk In My Shadow" and "Blues Deluxe" in rapid succession. Before I even had time to catch my breath, I was once again blown away by this guitar phenomenon. I have flirted with the opinion that Bonamassa may be the overall best guitarist on the planet these days, and after seeing him perform live again, for second time in the last seven months, I am now totally comfortable with that opinion. He is simply mesmerizing to watch, and the rest of the Birchmere crowd obviously agreed, since they gave him standing ovations after nearly every song and mind-blowing guitar solo.
This was a very different performance from the short but blistering power-trio show he put on at Blues Alley last fall. Three brand new songs, from his soon to be released new album, tentatively titled Sloe Gin, were trotted out this night and they are some of the best stuff I have heard from him since his fantastic debut album. The title track, which is surprisingly a cover of an old Tim Curry song (yes the Rocky Horror Picture Show Tim Curry) is destined to be a Bonamassa classic. His guitar playing was simply extraordinary on this song and was matched by some of the most impassioned vocals he has ever laid down.
The two other new tracks were the hard rockin' "Another Kind of Love" and a brilliant cover of Ten Years After's "One of These Days", which he closed the show with. Highlights of the show were "Mountain Time", which Joe colored with some new Indian-style voicings throughout the first few minutes, a jaw-dropping "Woke Up Dreaming", which he plays impossibly faster and more precise each time I see him, and of course the "Just Got Paid" / "Dazed and Confused" medley that Joe has been unleashing at each show throughout the last year. I would have killed to hear "Tea for One", his killer Zeppelin cover from You & Me, around this point, but who's complaining.
The three new songs Joe debuted this night have really left me jonesing for the next Bonamassa fix, and if these new songs are any indication, the new album is shaping up to be a monster. As much as I enjoy all of Joe's albums though, you've really got to see him play live to appreciate his extraordinary talent.
Bridge To Better Days
Walk In My Shadow
Another Kind of Love (new)
Sloe Gin (new)
High Water Everywhere
If Heartaches Were Nickels
Woke Up Dreaming
Just Got Paid/Dazed And Confused
Asking Around for You
One of These Days (new)