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Joe Bonamassa - Austin City Limits Live


by Kevin Wierzbicki

Joe Bonamassa wasn't fooling on April 1; he was at the vaunted Austin, Texas venue Austin City Limits Live to perform a 14-song set accompanied only by drummer Anton Fig and bass man Steve Mackey, in a show that was live-streamed for a pay per view audience. The good news for those who missed the live broadcast is that the show can now be streamed on demand until May, and those purchasing the stream can watch it as many times as they want until the May cut-off date.

It was only fitting that Bonamassa played in the rare power trio format for the show; Austin was (at the infamous Antone's), back in the day, one of the first places where he and his sidemen performed as a threesome. The show starts with "Oh Beautiful," a cut that begins (and ends) as a Delta blues but that sounds like a '70s blues rocker in between, complete with a long guitar solo that includes nods to psychedelia. Speaking of guitar solos, it's a wonder that Joe's Strat doesn't burst into flames on "Love Ain't a Love Song," even during the song's "quiet" part. Before playing a cover of Gary Moore's "Midnight Blues," Bonamassa relates how he first played the song during a show at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium, jokingly adding that while he was there he "stole Porter Wagoner's jacket."

Fans had the chance to select the songs that Bonamassa played for this show and they curated a great set. The favorite "Beyond the Silence" appears early in the show; lengthy and full of twists and turns instrumentally, the cut builds an intensity that's only released through Joe's impassioned vocals. Another treat is a playing of "Wandering Earth," a cut that originally appeared on the Black Rock album that Bonamassa indicates had never been performed live before. Joe gives a bit of a nod to Jimi Hendrix with his playing on the long and slow "Pain and Sorrow" and before the band plays "Miss You, Hate You" Joe tells about how the song was inspired by his having his heartbroken by an unfaithful girlfriend.

The show starts working its way to its conclusion with covers of Stevie Ray Vaughan's "Scuttle Buttin'" and Jeff Beck's "Blues Deluxe" before wrapping things up with another fan favorite, "The Ballad of John Henry." The cut is perfect for the finale as it features background vocalist Jade MacRae mesmerizing with non-lexical vocals and Bonamassa adding eerie overtones to the song by playing Theremin. A two-song encore is performed; the acoustic guitar workout "Woke up Dreaming" and a full band version of the classic Robert Johnson song "Cross Road Blues." Streams of the show can be purchased here.

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