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Review: Bonamassa live in NYC

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Joe Bonamassa: Live from New York at the Beacon Theatre
Joe Bonamassa
J&R Adventures

Joe Bonamassa: Live from New York at the Beacon Theatre begins with a black and white scene. Bonamassa shreds on an acoustic guitar in a New York subway, clothed in heavy clothes and thick-rimmed glasses. No one notices his presence or his identity, yet his talent is undeniable. Bonamassa soon leaves the subway and enters the Beacon Theatre; colors appear and a full house stands before the guitar legend. The music starts; the song is called "Slow Train" and the drums and guitar race against the lights. Faster and brighter, the music grows louder, and then Bonamassa begins to sing in his smooth and soulful voice. Energetic piano and bass guitar accompany Joe Bonamassa as he surges through the song. Cymbal-heavy drums keep time without overpowering neither Bonamassa's voice or his beautiful guitar.

As the set continues, the unity of the band is apparent. They perform with complete faith in each other. In fact, they play their songs like a band of fearless, medieval warriors. United under the banner of rock and roll, they march into the battlefields of the Beacon Theatre. Bonamassa is their leader; their knight; their king. Bonomassa's kingsguard stands behind him, ready to switch tempo, pitch or key at any instant (I think Game of Thrones is starting to seep into my writing).

What Kobe Bryant can do with a basketball is what Joe Bonamassa can do with a guitar. He simply wills his instrument to play the perfect melodies. Successful and awe inducing, his guitars display a range of noises that only few could appreciate completely. Bonamassa's facial expressions are indicative of his passion; his mouth contorts with the "wah-wahs" of his axe - I mean his guitar. Other times, he wears a mask of focus and power and favors a stance of balance and strength. Bonamassa commands the stage at all times. Sonorous riffs, low-note, rapid licks and face melting solos comprise a healthy fraction of Bonamassa's repertoire.

Despite Bonamassa's undeniable leadership, his band exhibits tremendous musicianship. They are all talented, yet they have no qualms with improving their main man's performance. It truly is a difficult task to pay attention to each musician and appreciate his contribution to each song.

The blues and jazz overtones of each song are palpable in each song, but there is definite variety to Bonamassa's set. Songs like "Midnight Blues" feature a softer sound. Indeed, this song offers soul-soothing melodies. One can drift into a stupor of simple appreciation and a lull of placid admiration and gratitude. Bonamassa's self-aware mastery enhances the experience; his confidence delivers each song's message and emotion perfectly.

While Bonamassa does not write every lyric for the songs he performs, he tells a story each time. Bonamassa sings the familiar verse of unrequited love, of heartache, and of heartbreak. He takes a magnifying glass to the lyrics of his songs. His powerful voice and angelic guitar are a bright sun that shines above said magnifying glass. The words soon scorch the soul with a recognizable flame - the flame of pain. Scars of love and passion remain from this conflagration, and the soul cries out to Bonamassa. We are not alone in our sorrow.

The wonderful set progresses; Bonamassa brings a few guests of distinction and noticeable ability to the stage. Beth Hart takes control and sings with just as much intensity as Bonamassa. She sounds similar to P!nk; her rough voice, her passionate performance and her candid enthusiasm dominate the show. It speaks well of Bonamassa to take the backseat during a few of his songs; he may be the frontrunner, but he is not the only one with talent. Other guests, John Hiatt and Paul Rodgers, contribute to the flavor of the show. Each musician places his own unique stamp on their songs; as amazing as Bonamassa is, his performance can seem redundant and recycled, so these sprinkles of newness arrive at perfect times.

Joe Bonamassa's performance at the Beacon Theatre was one to remember. Whether he was jamming out while playing "Sinner's Prayer" or singing ballads like "Mountain Time," Bonamassa blew the roof off the place. Talented beyond reason, Joe Bonamassa delivers memorable performance after performance. If you ever have had, or will have, an opportunity to see him play, consider yourself lucky; he is rock and roll legend.

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