A completely sold out Pearl Concert Theater was the setting for blues and rock guitarist Joe Bonamassa this past Saturday night. I will have to admit that I am a bit late coming to this party.
Sure, I had heard great things about Bonamassa's guitar playing ability, but I had to experience it for myself. Along with the 2,200 other people on Saturday, I am glad I did. His blues and rock style is his own, while certainly paying tribute to many of the greats such as Page, Hendrix and Vaughan that came before him. In a word, this concert was superb.
Bonamassa served as his own opening act, with two of his band members, Arlan Oscar Schierbaum on piano and Tal Bergman on bongos. It was a stripped down, part bluegrass, part country, part rock and blues sound that the already enthusiastic audience instantly enjoyed, with songs such as "Seagull," "Jockey Full Of Bourbon" and "Woke Up Dreaming."
He offered a quick "thank you," and then it was to turn wonderfully loud in short order. The bongos and piano were swiftly removed as a flood of lights directly hit the audience with the opening chords of "Slow Train." It was a fat, bluesy sound that was coming from Bonamassa and his band (now with Carmine Rojas joining in on bass).
The band plowed its way through several songs, including "Dust Bowl," "Dislocated Boy," "Driving Towards The Daylight" and "Ballad Of John Henry." Each band member contributed equally, but I especially enjoyed the unmistakable snarling sound of the Hammond B3 organ for many of the songs as well as Bergman's outstanding drum solo. The camera crew was wise to offer many close ups of Bonamassa's guitar work as well. All in all, this was a well-packaged concert going experience.
It was obvious that Bonamassa was comfortable onstage, with his fun and personable banter in between songs. I got the feeling that he felt right at home at this particular concert, considering the fact that he's recorded three albums in Las Vegas already. During one of the song breaks, Bonamassa suggested that Vegas could be a once a year kind of thing, much to the overwhelming approval of the audience.
After two solid hours of music, the band came back out for two encores: "Sloe Gin" and "Just Got Paid." Not a soul left the theater, which is always a great indication of how successful the show was. Bonamassa's roots were on display as he offered the classic licks of Led Zeppelin's "Dazed And Confused" in the middle of the last song "Just Got Paid."
The band fed off the energy offered by the crowd, and vice versa. This was truly a special evening of music. For those of us searching for the next great guitar player, it's more than obvious that the search is over with Joe Bonamassa. This soon to be 36-year-old is just getting started, which is certainly exciting for music lovers such as myself.
Joe Bonamassa performed on Apr. 20 at The Pearl Concert Theater at The Palms Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. For information about future shows at The Pearl, call 702-944-7777 or visit www.palms.com. For more information on Joe Bonamassa, visit www.jbonamassa.com.