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JOE BONAMASSA, Liverpool Echo Arena
28 March 2012

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When the great Joe Bonamassa deigned to speak to the assembled multitude tonight he playfully referred to previous gigs at the Pacific Road venue, across the Mersey. The juxtaposition of different venues only a few years - and a few miles - apart was significant, with the Echo Arena attracting 10 times the previous audience.

For those who have followed Bonamassa's career since 2000 and admired his evident anglophilia, the 'Arena' tour is a triumphal homecoming if not quite topping 2009's Royal Albert Hall gig when he jammed with his hero Eric Clapton. But since then, of course, Joe has played High Voltage and launched and toured separately with Black Country Communion, whilst still finding time to release solo albums the latest of which will appear in May.

Joe Bonamassa, photo by David Randall

If the setlist tonight was somewhat predictable it would have almost certainly satisfied the hardened blues-rock aficionados, opening as he did with two originals 'Slow Train' and 'Last Kiss' and doffing his Les Paul to the late great Gary Moore on 'Midnight Blues'.

But a look at that setlist provides some insight with a very high proportion of covers, again satiating those who look back to the smoky clubs of the sixties for their blues inspiration. Bonamassa has always openly paid his dues to his Brit-blues heroes but for me this set merely underlined that like his albums the true standout originals are thin on the ground. As if to reinforce that, and in a rare exchange with the audience, he joked that it is unlikely there'll be a 'hit single' on his latest album as he proceeded to play the title track 'Driving Toward The Daylight'.

Whilst we maybe wouldn't want Joe to sell out his ideals, it perhaps wouldn't be a bad idea to have some true classic single-length songs in his repertoire just as Clapton had his 'Layla' (even though it was the shortened version).


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