My original plan when I arranged to meet Joe Bonamassa was to do a rig rundown video similar to my Rob Arnold video however things didn’t quite go to plan… let me explain.
I arrived at The Factory Theatre, Sydney on 31 March late afternoon to see Joe Bonamassa hanging out on the deck wearing a newly acquired Akubra (I presume) and not looking overly happy. The reason was that he had just opened the case of his cherised #52 Signature Gibson goldtop Les Paul to find that it had been savaged by Delta Airlines, they had cracked the neck where the headstock meets and was definitely not playable. Joe says it can be fixed, and he has seen this happen to plenty of guitars ever since he was a kid since his dad owned a guitar shop but this was one of the guitars used at the Albert Hall gig so it will lose some of its mojo.
So as you can imagine there was a mad rush to get another guitar, a stock Gibson R8 or R9 to use for the show. Nevertheless despite Joe’s obvious disappointment he was happy to chat gear with me for a while besides the constant interruption from the dreaded Inner West flightpath. During this chat I learned an interesting bit of trivia which I thought you would like, the Marshall Class 5 that you see on the Joe Bonamassa Live At The Royal Albert Hall DVD (footage from the tour bus) was actually the very first production model of the amp and was called a Marshall Classic before they had decided on the Class 5 name. Joe says he wants to return this amp to the Marshall family for their archives because he thinks it is too special for him to be hanging on to, humble as ever. Joe also mentioned that Eric Clapton turned up to the Albert Hall gig with a Fender Twin that still had the tags on, totally stock and still sounded incredible. This probably upsets many tone chasers who believe this just isn’t possible. Well to those tube obsessed gearheads I hate to tell you this but Joe sounded amazing too through a pair of totally stock (as far as I am aware) rented Marshall JCM2000 stacks. Joe didn’t bring the “Monster Rig” as he referred to it because as you can imagine it would cost too much and the gig in Sydney was only very small, just 1000 people! He did bring the baffle which he said is very important but he told me the real secret in his main rig was using EV Speakers which Joe explained are much more punchy than Celestion Speakers and retain their clarity and definition at high volumes.
While I was waiting for Joe to soundcheck I wandered to the back of the hall to find a man by the name of John Comacchio with a trio of beautiful custom guitars sitting with the cases open. Naturally I was intrigued, John is a luthier based in Sydney and his Comacchio Guitars are beautifully crafted with a really nice neck heel that I hadn’t seen anything like before and this is due to John’s background in furniture design before building guitars. I was lucky enough to play his Telecaster with its birdseye Maple fretboard and natural binding. I had a quick play unplugged and it felt very nice and well balanced. John later presented this guitar to Joe Bonamassa as a present, a pretty nice gesture considering the $6,300 pricetag! Joe was surprised and very grateful and to everyone’s surprise Joe used the guitar during the encore to play one of my favourite songs from his latest album Black Rock, Bird On A Wire. Joe later said to John while we were backstage that the Tele was “Ace” and warm and Joe’s guitar tech said he loved how articulate it was. Joe also said he was going to use it every show in Australia and indeed he did use it the following night in Melbourne.
The show as you can imagine in such an intimate venue was magical, I stood literally feet away from the stage and watched in awe as Joe played a range of classic and new tracks note perfect. Just check out my videos below of “Sloe Gin” and “Woke Up Dreaming”, you could hear a pin drop during the intro to “Sloe Gin” and the banter during “Woke Up Dreaming” was pretty funny, I think Joe enjoyed the Aussie crowd. I’d like to thank Joe for taking the time out to chat to me and letting me hang out backstage with him, it was a once in a lifetime experience for me.