Overkill is always a problem where the insanely prolific Joe Bonamassa is concerned. An eighth live record in six years (we’re counting the four Tour de Force releases as one) is, on the face of it, quite ridiculous. And yet the most recent – 2016’s Live At The Greek Theatre – landed inside the UK’s top 20 just months after studio album Blues Of Desperation crashed the top three. Demand is still, it seems, far outstripping supply.
At least Live At Carnegie Hall offers a different slant on the tried and tested formula: in fact it’s a good four years since JB released An Acoustic Evening At The Vienna Opera House.
Stripped back and unplugged there’s no better opportunity to judge the hype, assess the talent and examine some of the biggest hits in a new light. And love him or loathe him there’s little doubt Bonamassa knows his way across a fretboard.
Vocally he’s progressing at a rapid rate and the decision to use Australian backing singers Mahalia Barnes, Juanita Tippins and Gary Pinto brought out the best in Bonamassa during his 2016 acoustic run. Raising his game and raising the roof, the guitarist cum singer fed off his band and successfully switched the focus, albeit only occasionally, from his quick fingers and dextrous knuckles. Adding Chinese cellist Tina Guo and Egyptian percussionist Hossam Ramzy to the mix made for a wonderful night of music in New York.
Opening up with This Train and moving through the likes of Dust Bowl and Driving Towards The Daylight, before stopping off to revisit Song Of Yesterday, and finally reaching The Rose, a superior set demands multiple viewings. Don’t own the DVD? The audio set is sharp and slick but watching Bonamassa bounce off his band mates is the real treat here.
They say less is more. And when they do Bonamassa laughs in their faces. There’s no stopping one of the hardest working men in rock and it’ll take a brave soul to try.