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Joe Bonamassa Rocks the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise

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Where: Holland America Westerdam Cruise Ship
When: 8-Jan-06 thru 15-Jan-06

It was my first time on the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise, so I had earned the title of “virgin”. What could be more ideal than taking a cruise for a vacation, nineteen of the top blues performers on the very same ship, ten special guest performers, live blues shows just about 24 and almost 7? Oh yeah, free food. PRICELESS!

So, the weather was not as ideal; downpour in Jamaica, choppy seas, overcast, and sprinkles in (and departing) Grand Cayman. Costa Maya and Belize were picture perfect, gorgeous and sunny, smooth sailing, so to speak. It was still better than the snow and bitter temperatures that I left at home.

On the first night, as we were departing Ft Lauderdale on January 8, Joe’s first show was outside, there were high winds, and it was on the cooler side. When you see my pictures, you will see the guys in jackets. We weren’t quite around the tip of Cuba, so it was a bit chilly. The band line up for the cruise was, of course, Joe , Mark Epstein (bass), and Randy Cooke (drums).

Here is the first night’s set list:

  • Walk in My Shadow
  • Blues Deluxe
  • Takin’ The Hit
  • Mountain Time
  • The River
  • Burnin’ Hell
  • A New Day Yesterday


  • You Upset Me Baby
  • I Don’t Live Anywhere

Joe, Mark, and Randy were having a blast. I have not seen Joe smile as much as he did as when he played with Mark. I noticed a change. It was awesome to enjoy the show with great people. The next day, as I was strollin’ around the ship, it was so cool overhearing folks talk about Joe Bonamassa!

As we were departing Montego Bay, on January 10, JB performed in the Vista Lounge (the pictures can be found on Flickr).

Set List:

  • Faux Mantini – acoustic version
  • Miss You, Hate You – acoustic
  • Woke Up Dreaming – acoustic
  • (slide solo)
  • The River
  • Burnin’ Hell
  • Walk in My Shadow
  • Blues Deluxe
  • Vous et Moi – (new tune on next album – instrumental, just Joe)
  • Had to Cry Today
  • (drum solo)
  • Heart of the Sunrise/Starship Trooper


  • You Upset Me Baby

The new song is rockin’ and I was given some inside info that it was only a sample of it. I think it was a cross between Had To Cry Today and A New Day Yesterday. I have to give Mark credit for a bass solo, however, I don’t recall when. In the past, Joe had performed a viola solo at the beginning of “Blues Deluxe”, instead, Joe performed it in the middle of the song. There were 35-100 people on the open dance floor taking pictures, and it was like that most of the show. Many others commented that it was overwhelming, even if they were just passing by. [ADBLOCKHERE]

The next show for Joe was held on the aft pool deck, on January 12. It was really nice, about 80 with a nice breeze, but overcast. I did not notice any stagehands during this show, except for one guy on the mixer board near the stage. At first it sprinkled a bit, but a while later it started to downpour during the viola solo to “Blues Deluxe”. Joe finished the solo, but decided to pack up. They were soaked. All the guitars were soaked. There were no stagehands near to cover anything up.

Set list of what was performed, before it began pouring.

  • Woke Up Dreaming
  • A New Day Yesterday
  • Takin’ the Hit (rain started to really come down, followed by strong winds)
  • Mountain Time
  • Walk in My Shadow
  • Blues Deluxe – viola part only

1:00 am Pro jam with Jimmy Thackery…started off with just Jimmy and his band. Tommy Castro sat in for a few tunes. Then Joe joined in the fun. Along with Joe, Jimmy, and Tommy, Mitch Woods was added on keys, Vinnie Campbell and Deanna Bogart on Sax, Carl Dufrene on bass. They also swapped out his drummer and added a trumpet. Tommy Castro stepped out when Deborah Coleman came to the stage. To see Jimmy, Joe, and Deborah jammin’ – wow! After a few tunes, they swapped Joe for Tab Benoit. I left around 4 a.m., but I heard it went to almost six! (Photos of the jam session.)

As we were departing Belize, it was time for Joe’s last scheduled show. The band was due to perform in the Crow’s Nest, January 13. Joe decided that since Randy had only been playing with the group for four days prior to the cruise, they had run out of tunes to play. So, Joe held an impromptu guitar clinic. He included selections from “The River”, “Walk in My Shadow”, the viola solo from “Blues Deluxe”, “Heart of the Sunrise” and “Starship Trooper”. He also told a story of how he added a Peter Frampton riff to “Takin’ the Hit”. He was already performing when I walked in (and I have NEVER been late to one of his shows), so, I sat further back and I did not take any photos. Toward the end of the Q&A session, I shouted out for “Pain and Sorrow”. Joe laughed and said that they only had eleven songs for the trip.

Overall, Joe left a very good impression on many of the cruisers. For most of the folks I spoke with, it was their first time seeing him perform. Even though the blues covers such a wide range of styles within the genre itself, people commented that Joe’s style leans heavily on the rock and roll end of the spectrum. Well, yes, blues rock, that is.

Other performers on the cruise were not performing blues at all; they played more pop/dance music and many cruisers mentioned it. Either way, the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise had a unique blend of blues, enough to satisfy any music lover.

Other items of note: I need to give kudos to the stage crew on the cruise. Although I noticed that there were none to be found during Joe’s aft deck show, most of these folks had volunteered their time. At a moment’s notice, a show could be moved from the aft deck on the ninth floor to the vista lounge, found on the first floor. Most of the shows started at 3 p.m. at various locations on the ship (a few in port, too), with the pro jams starting later and continuing until 7 a.m.

I had overheard a few performers and stage crew giving Joe some flack about bringing his own Marshall amps. The back line on all the stages were set up with Fender reverbs. As his most loyal fans, we all know how Joe is about his sound and tone, wanting it to be perfect, and he will not compromise, while many of the performers seemed not to care how they sounded.

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About Tara Clark

  • Joanie

    I really wish I could have been on the cruise with you! I’m glad you were able to go, though. I’m also really happy you wrote up your experience.

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