Despite the crummy London weather outside, Joe Bonamassa delivered the kind of performance that every fan hopes to attend once in his lifetime — ultra-exclusive, electrifying and with plenty of free beer on hand. The 32-year-old blues rock guitar hero, who’s on the verge of releasing his tenth full-length solo album, held an audience of 150 spellbound on Tuesday night with an intimate concert at Gibson Guitar’s London studio. It was Bonamassa’s first public performance of 2010 and it proved him primed to take on the rigorous U.S. tour schedule he has mapped out this spring.
Ticket holders earned their attendance through a contest hosted by U.K. radio station Planet Rock, on which Bonamassa has a weekly show. The signature Gibson artist played for an hour and a half, using an ebony Les Paul to unleash tracks from his forthcoming album Black Rock (Otis Rush’s “Three Times a Fool,” Bobby Parker’s “Steal Your Heart Away” and his own “When The Fire Hits The Sea”) as well as several songs from 2009’s The Ballad of John Henry (“The Ballad of John Henry,” “Last Kiss,” “Sloe Gin,” “The Great Flood” and “Woke Up Dreaming”). Bonamassa also covered Mose Allison’s “Young Man Blues” and segued his rendition of ZZ Top’s “Just Got Paid” into Led Zeppelin’s “Dazed and Confused.”
Following the show, fans quickly populated Bonamassa forums and YouTube with videos and accounts of the evening. The performance has only amped anticipation for Bonamassa’s Black Rock, due out March 23 and currently available for preorder on his website. The album features a duet with fellow Gibson signature artist B.B. King (on the Willie Nelson song “Night Life”) and was recorded at, and named for, Black Rock Studios in Santorini, Greece.
In earlier interview, Bonamassa and producer Kevin Shirley spoke about recording the album.
“With [Black Rock], we wanted to explore a world feeling, and this was the inspiration behind going to record in Greece and using some of the best Greek musicians to add a little flavor to a couple of the tracks,” said Shirley. “But it’s, by no means, a world album. We wanted Joe’s usual youthful and energetic tones to play alongside the worldly vibes of the Greek bouzouki and clarion.”
Bonamassa said, “It was the kind of record Kevin and I wanted to make. We needed to rock again a bit like on my first album. I wrote the whole thing there [in Greece].”
Black Rock includes covers of Jeff Beck’s “Spanish Boots,” Leonard Cohen’s “Bird On a Wire,” John Hiatt’s “I Know a Place,” as well as five new original songs. In January, Bonamassa released the concert DVD Joe Bonamassa: Live From The Royal Albert Hall.