To see Joe Bonamassa in Australia is a real privilege, Joe has only played here once before and that was just over a year ago when he was on the BluesFest bill up in Byron Bay. Thankfully Joe scheduled a pre-festival date at the Factory Theatre in Sydney for 1000 fans (see the review here) and I was lucky enough to meet and chat to Joe and hang out at soundcheck and backstage. That short visit helped Joe to gauge what his fanbase was in Australia and something that I think genuinely surprised him, this time around Joe has come to Australia on a national tour and upgraded the size of venue in Sydney filling the Enmore Theatre last friday with ease.
When Joe comes to Australia obviously some sacrifices have to be made in terms of gear because you can imagine how much it would cost to transport his monster rig and collection of valuable guitars. Just before the gig Joe posted a Tweet saying how he wouldn’t recommend the backline provided for him and at the start of the show you could see he was visibly agitated by the hired Marshall stacks but that was short lived and to my ears it sounded like Joe Bonamassa, amazing smooth tone that proves it is really all in the hands. Joe also probably hired most of the guitars used but he did have a very nice Goldtop Les Paul with a Bigsby that he used on a few tracks included ‘Django/Mountain Time‘ as you can see in the video above.
As you will see from the setlist below Joe played a couple of songs from the latest album ‘Dust Bowl‘ (check out my review), the title track and the excellent ‘Slow Train‘ as well as a selection of tracks from ‘Black Rock‘,’The Ballad Of John Henry‘,’So It’s Like That‘,’Sloe Gin‘ and ‘Blues Deluxe‘. Joe also threw in a few covers, ‘Cradle Rock‘ by Rory Gallagher which he opened with, an amazing version of ‘Midnight Blues‘ which was Joe’s tribute to Gary Moore (see the video below), ‘Further On Up The Road‘ where he called upon Cold Chisel’s Ian Moss to join him on stage and finishing with ZZ Top’s ‘Just Got Paid‘ which if you have seen Joe live or seen the Albert Hall DVD you will know also includes a medley of Jeff Beck and Led Zeppelin songs.
Joe’s choice to have Ian Moss join him for 2 songs was a big crowd pleaser, although I’m not originally from Australia I know how big Cold Chisel were here, he is pretty much a household name. “Mossy” as he is affectionately known plugged in to the spare Marshall stack with a Fender Strat and traded licks on ‘Further On Up The Road‘ and ‘Blues Deluxe‘. Joe mentioned that the last time he had played Eric Clapton’s ‘Further On Up The Road‘ was the Albert Hall gig where “slowhand” himself joined Joe onstage, that was quite a big ask to live up to and Ian Moss looked a little uncomfortable in comparison. Joe just exudes confidence and never plays a bum note so I imagine it is quite a nerve wracking experience even for someone with Ian’s experience, but having said that he did a great job and it was nice to have a totally different style of playing and tone adding texture to the 2 tracks.
When Joe played at The Factory Theatre last year it was an incredibly intimate gig so there was a lot of humour with a few well meaning Aussie hecklers, this time around there was only one instance but it was still funny. Joe played his acoustic solo ‘Woke Up Dreaming‘ which includes an extended intro full of Paul Gilbert-esque super fast picking licks and diminished arpeggios which was all very impressive and just as Joe stops at the end of a ludicrously fast run some guy shouted, “You played it faster last year!” to which Joe responded by playing it even faster triggering a massive response from the packed venue.
So how did this gig compare to last year’s intimate gathering at The Factory Theatre? Well I don’t think anything could compare to that gig, being in such a small club was a rare and special experience, plus the Enmore Theatre has particularly bad acoustics and no band I have ever seen has sounded great there. Having said that though it was great to see Joe fill a venue of this size and see the support he has here in Australia so that he will keep coming back. It has taken a long time for Joe to come to Australia and then twice in 2 years which is a good sign, let’s hope he brings Black Country Communion out here before the next solo tour!
Here is the full setlist thanks to setlist.fm:
Cradle Rock (Rory Gallagher cover)
So Many Roads
When The Fire Hits The Sea
So, It’s Like That
Midnight Blues (Gary Moore cover)
The Ballad of John Henry
Further On Up The Road (Eric Clapton cover with Ian Moss)
Blues Deluxe (with Ian Moss)
Young Mans Blues
Woke Up Dreaming
Just Got Paid