Joe Bonamassa // Live Review // The First Direct Arena // Leeds


Last night Joe Bonamassa brought his latest UK tour to Leeds. Oh boy, what a show .. no seriously this could be the show of the year so far by a million miles. 

The first 3 songs zip by in a heartbeat (not that each one isn’t close to 10 mins long). Joe comes out and is on fire from the first beat. Backed by a band of superlative musicians (more on them later) Evil Mama, Dust Bowl and Love Aint A Love Song. 3 songs, 3 different guitars (Les Paul, Gibson 335 and a trusty Strat) each one sounding exactly like that guitar should sound .. and of course exactly right for the feel of the composition. 

Next up for me at least is the medium-paced blues The Heart That Never Waits from the “Time Clocks” LP and it’s yet again another guitar swap this time to a fine-sounding Telecaster. The light and shade in the song are classic Bonamassa and a mention has to go out here to the amazing soulful voices of the backup singers Jade MacRae and Danni D’Andrea, their voices complement Joe in every way.

So having mentioned Jade and Danni lets not forget the rest of this fine band .. first up, Keyboards are covered by the legend of many a blues LP and member of Stevie Ray Vaughn’s band, Reece Wynans. Throughout the evening we were treated to some of the finest Hammond and Piano playing you will ever hear in a Rock n Roll band.. The man is just next level. On second guitar and by no means a slouch when it comes to taking a solo spot or two is Josh Smith, he certainly made that Idenez of his scream on more than one occasion. Drummer Lemar Carter (he even gets a full on drum solo in the last song of the evening) and bass player Calvin Turner, who plays a clever little bass and keyboard fill with Reece Wynans during Lonely Boy, make a rhythm section that you would find hard to match anywhere.

This really is a show full of light and shade, driven by a band that allows Joe the space and freedom to prove  that he really is the best of the modern bluesmen (not that he has to prove anything).

What really struck me was that when you reach this kind of level just how effortlessly everything seems to flow from each of the musicians .. they really don’t have to try hard, the music just flows and the audience follows, you become wrapped up in the whole experience with them. 

Back to the music, “SHout about It” is another chance for the talents of Smith and Wynans to come to the fore, of course we get another Strat solo from the man himself, but it really is time for the hired hands to really showcase what they can do. “Double Trouble” has the 335 out again and its time for Joe’s fine singing voice to really shine. This song builds to a blistering crescendo.

The guitar changes keep coming throughout the show. Les Paul, Strat, 335, Telecaster, Flying V and what has to be the biggest sounding Gibson SG I have ever heard on “Happier Times” (thats really how an SG should sound and this moment is worth the ticket price just on its own !!!) 

Lonely boy brings back the unique sounds of the Telecaster … Josh blisters through the opening solo and now we get a bass and piano duet.  Jo rips into a sublime but driving  solo and stops it to swop out for a Flying V !!! … why .. because he can and of course it’s exactly what the song needs.  It’s straight into the rocking “Just got Paid” and boy does that Flying V sound good .. whilst retaining  a blues feel the solo is much more in the vein of 70s rock. Jo prowls the stage wanting  the audience to participate and cheer along.  To add to the man’s talent the Theremin is brought into the solo with more than a nod to the great Jimmy Page. Then it’s Led Zeppelin or Rush or both .. it’s the end of the show and the band receive a standing ovation 

The encore is none other than the enigmatic  Mountain Time .. a true southern rock classic .. the uplifting lyrics perfect for a show closer . Joes solo starts as many have this evening so delicately… but will we get the blistering end … it’s building nicely .. yep here it comes .. it’s not fast and furious but a glorious melodic solo in keeping with there song … in a perfect ending the backing vocals soar above Jo and the whole band is in perfect sync as the final chorus brings the song to a stunning end.


Photography: Mark Ellis









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Exeter Road, Bournemouth, BH2 5BH



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Church St, Blackpool, FY1 1HU


FRIDAY 12 MAY 2023

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Arena Way, Leeds, LS2 8BY



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Arena Way, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE4 7NA


SUNDAY 14 MAY 2023

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King Edwards Road, Birmingham, B1 2AA


Bonamassa has just released ‘Tales Of Time,’ a groundbreaking live performance from the iconic Red Rocks Amphitheatre – AVAILABLE NOW

For more information on ‘Tales Of Time’ and to purchase tickets to Bonamassa’s upcoming tour, click HERE.

Summer U.S. Tour
May 26 – Capitol Theatre – Yakima, WA
May 27 – Backroads Blues Festival – Hayden Homes Amphitheatre – Bend, OR*
May 28 – Backroads Blues Festival – Chateau Ste Michelle Winery – Woodinville, WA*
August 2 – Vina Robles Amphitheatre – Paso Robles, CA
August 4 – The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas – Las Vegas, NV
August 5 – Eccles Theater – Salt Lake City, UT
August 6 – Red Rocks Amphitheatre – Morrison, CO
August 9 – Hollywood Bowl – Los Angeles, CA^
August 12 – Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater – Wantagh, NY**
August 13 – Bethel Woods Center for the Arts – Bethel, NY**

*Featuring Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Joe Bonamassa
**Keeping the Blues Alive presents: Joe Bonamassa & Friends: Styx and Don Felder, formerly of the Eagles
^Joe Bonamassa with Orchestra

Fall U.S. Tour
October 23 – Memphis, TN – The Cannon Center                        
October 25 – Shreveport, LA – Shreveport Municipal Auditorium
October 27 – San Antonio, TX – Majestic Theatre                       
October 28 – Sugar Land, TX – Smart Financial Centre At Sugar Land
October 29 – Austin, TX – ACL Live
November 1 – Fayetteville, AR – Walton Arts Center                        
November 3 – Little Rock, AR – Robinson Performance Hall                          
November 4 – Grand Prairie, TX – Texas Trust CU Theatre
November 5 – Oklahoma City, OK – Civic Center Music Hall
November 8 – Tulsa, OK – Tulsa Theater
November 10 – Kansas City, MO – The Midland Theatre
November 11 – St. Louis, MO – The Fabulous Fox
November 12 – Cedar Rapids, IA – Paramount Theatre
November 14 – Rochester, MN – Mayo Civic Center                                      
November 15 – Rockford, IL – Coronado Performing Arts Center
November 17 – Fort Wayne, IN – Embassy Theatre
November 18 – Detroit, MI – Fox Theatre
November 19 – Columbus, OH – Palace Theatre
November 21 – Reading, PA – The Santander Performing Arts Center
November 22 – Providence, RI – Providence Performance Arts Center
November 24 – Springfield, MA – Symphony Hall
November 25 – Baltimore, MD – The Lyric
November 28 – Savannah, GA – Johnny Mercer Theatre
November 30 – Sarasota, FL – Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall
December 1 – Estero, FL – Hertz Arena`
December 2 – Hollywood, FL – Hard Rock Live`

`On-sale now

Blues-rock superstar Joe Bonamassa is one of the most celebrated performing musicians of today. As a three-time GRAMMY-nominated artist and 13x Blues Music Award Nominee (4 wins), he achieved his 25th No. 1 album on the Billboard Blues Chart with his latest studio album Time Clocks. He’s fresh off the release of Tales Of Time, a sprawling and expansive live concert film and album, shot at the breathtaking Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Only in his mid-40s, Bonamassa has become a living legend with an astounding and expansive multi-genre catalog. He has released more than 40 albums, including studio and live recordings, as well as collaborative albums with his adventurous side projects: Black Country Communion and Rock Candy Funk Party.

A prolific writer who is always on the hunt to expand his eclectic musical horizons, Bonamassa has a limitless work ethic whether it’s in a studio, on the road, or working with other artists to spur new music. In recent years, he has produced an immense number of albums for his exciting independent label KTBA Records, and he recently launched Journeyman LLC, a full-service artist management, record label, concert promotion, and marketing company that builds awareness for independent artists worldwide. Recent producing highlights include ‘Crown’ by the blues legend Eric Gales, which was nominated for “Best Contemporary Blues Album” at the 2023 GRAMMY Awards.

Bonamassa has been featured in several publications from Esquire, WSJ, and Parade to Rolling Stone and American Songwriter, as well as on the covers of Guitar WorldGuitar PlayerVintage GuitarGuitarist, and Classic Rock Magazine. His non-profit Keeping The Blues Alive foundation provides music education funding to schools and support to artists in need and has positively impacted more than 90k students to date.