The Palais Theatre in Melbourne has hosted many events from The Rolling Stones in the sixties to Buddy Guy in 2012, and like this old lady which is getting a wonderful makeover, Joe Bonamassa has taken the old Blues to a new generation, where he has polished it and expanded it to a new and exciting level.
The show opened with the wonderful talent and support act of Sinead Burgess, a Queenslander who shared the stage with nothing more than her guitar and silky voice where she began sharing her stories through the rhythm of her music.
A complete contrast to what was about to explode on stage.
The audience left in darkness with nothing but a Johnny Cash song airing through the speakers, and then armed with nothing more than what looked like a 1966 Fender Strat. Joe graced on to the stage dressed in a suit Jacket, tanned shoes, his trademark sunglasses and yes…a pair of jeans. (Apparently the pants were lost between hotel and venue).
With his fifth tour of Melbourne (sixth if you include a guest appearance on Mahalia’s ‘Ooh Yeah’ album release gig), Joe ripped into ‘This Train’, ‘Mountain Climbing’ and ‘Blues Of Desperation’ as the first three songs from the currently released album ‘Blues Of Desperation’, leaving the audience hypnotised to the fingers caressing the fret board as if it was an extension of his arm. The twelve-minute version of ‘Love ain’t a love song’ was not just owned by Joe, but by the whole eight piece backing band, with Trumpet – Lee Thornburg, Saxophone – Paulie Cerra, all Australian backup singers led by Mahalia Barnes, Gary Pinto & Jade Mcrae, Bassist – Michael Rhodes, Keyboards – Reese Wynans, (original member of SRV double trouble) and Anton fig – Drums (The ‘Late Show with David Letterman’ and countless album recordings). This was not quite the ‘big band’ that Joe’s grandfather once played in but it did certainly carry a big sound.
After the introductions, Mahalia belted out the funky sounds of the Betty Davis song, ‘If I’m in Luck’. ‘Boogie Woogie Woman’ had everyone off their seats, and the sea of people in the auditorium was boogieing as if they were following their leaders movements. ‘Hummingbird’ closed the evening of what was to be the last show in Australia before heading off to New Zealand, leaving yet another footprint of the forever travelling bluesman in this great continent.
By Mark Moray