at Metro Arena, Newcastle, U.K., March 25, 2012

JOE BONAMASSA (Live at Metro Arena, Newcastle, U.K., March 25, 2012)
Photo: Mick Burgess

Sheer hard work can get you a long way in life as can a natural born ability, but combine the two and the sky is the limit. Joe Bonamassa is living testament to this. By the age of 14 he shared the stage with Blues legends BB King, John Lee Hooker and Buddy Guy and with a glowing endorsement from those greats he was well on his way to making a name for himself.

This did not happen over night. Bonamassa has an unbelievable work ethic playing over one hundred shows a year while producing no fewer than 12 albums in 11 years as a solo artist, with Rock supergroup Black Country Communion and through collaborations such as last year’s excellent Soul covers album, Don’t Explain with singer Beth Hart. Slowly but surely Bonamassa has worked his way up from playing the clubs and theatres before arriving for this show at the huge Metro Arena in Newcastle.


As a music form, the Blues is more usually associated with small, sweaty smoke filled clubs with the band and crowd just about on top of each other where they can feed off each other’s raw energy. It was a question on many lips as to whether the intimacy of a Blues show could be replicated in the Arena’s cavernous setting.

Any doubts that were lingering soon evaporated as soon as Bonamassa kicked off with “Slow Train” and with an early start time of 7:30 pm he had the whole evening to dazzle the Newcastle crowd with a supreme master class of modern Blues.

Bonamassa’s strength is his capacity to pen hard hitting songs such as “The Ballad of John Henry”, with its slow, driving groove and his ability to breathe new life into covers such as the mesmerising take on Tim Curry’s “Sloe Gin”, where his beautiful guitar work was simply sublime, and a haunting tribute to Gary Moore on “Midnight Blues”

With a band boasting former Bowie bassist Carmine Rojas and Tal Bergman, who laid down the rhythm for Chaka Khan, Bonamassa steered a very tight unit and when they locked together during the likes of “Dust Bowl”, Newcastle witnessed musicians at the very highest level.


With a low key stage set, Bonamassa needed no gimmicks, relying instead on his smouldering, husky Blues voice and stunning fretwork to provide the pyrotechnics. His innate ability to hold back where others may over indulge is a real asset and keeps matters sharp and focused while the audience remain on the edge of their seats.

After almost two and a half hours it was all over but those in the crowd will have been in no doubt, that they had experienced an exceptional show by an artist at the very top of their game. Bonamassa has laid down the gauntlet for all aspiring Blues artists to follow but it may be sometime before anyone comes close to matching this performance and with “Driving Towards Daylight” being previewed from his forthcoming album, it looks like his position will remain intact for some time to come.


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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