It’s almost an hour into this show before Joe Bonamassa speaks to the audience. When he does, he explains that this first show in the second city for five years, is the last of the tour. Then he adds the crucial point. “And that means”, he reasons, “that once a tour we get to play like there’s no tomorrow, and that night is tonight.”

That might explain the vibe. There’s a sort of reckless abandon in the playing, a rawness which is great to see from someone so wonderfully polished, but it doesn’t explain the whole Bonamassa package.

That comes in the encore. The only other thing he really says in his two and a quarter hours. He talks about “the song that changed my life”, the one he recorded 17 years ago, altered the chorus of and began the phenomenon. “Sloe Gin” is stunning too. The first time (I think) it’s been played on this UK run, but when he plays the solo at the end, it underlines how special he is.

He’s here with a similar set to that which he played last year – still only one, the bombastic yet haunting, “The Heart That Never Waits”, from the wonderful “Time Clocks” album, which is a shame – and that night I wrote “Joe Bonamassa stands apart. In years, decades even, to come, people will talk about him. He may be the best guitar player in the world (in truth, as a non-musician I consider this to be someone else’s business)” and all of that still applies here, but here, you realise how he’s got there: and the answer is by having the most incredible band around him.

“Evil Mama” does its thing. Its the first vehicle for all of the band to shine. There are 12 others. So, yes there’s a jaw-dropping solo on “Dust Bowl” but then there’s “Love Ain’t A Love Song”, a soul-filled slice of fun, that sees a band with a mastery of it’s craft. The backing vocalists of Danielle De Andrea and Jane MacRae are to the fore here and the way they sing is central to things.

There’s a couple of covers in the middle of the set that weren’t in last years. Coco Montova’s “I Want To Shout About It” is turned into something from the Jersey Shore, Southside Johnny is in the air, but “Double Trouble” is a showstopper. Reese Wynans who knows a thing or two about being in a band called Double Trouble after all, is at his best. Indeed, he works overtime as so good is his work in the next one “I Didn’t Think She Would Do It” that bassist Calvin Turner fans him playfully.

There’s a sense of playfulness around everywhere you look, even on the highly personal “Conversation With Alice” on which, JB doubles down on his claim that Josh Smith “is the best guitar player on this stage” by letting him loose with the solo.

“Lonely Boy” as always, sees hair let down and handbrakes off (as much as any Bonamassa performance is) but ZZ Top’s “Just Got Paid” has the heaviest riff of the night, and a drum solo from Lamar Carter which rather exemplifies how good he is (he’d been superb throughout).

Which brings us back to “Sloe Gin”. The one that’s a cover but no one knows is a cover, and the last one of the tour.

There’ll be other tours. The hardest working musician around lives on the road, and if he keeps on picking musicians this good to join him, at the age of 46, and 17 years after his life changed, then Joe Bonamassa is only just getting started.


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