REVIEW: Fantastic entertainment from guitar hero Joe Bonamassa at Sheffield Arena

Joe Bonamassa. Photo: Glenn Ashley
Joe Bonamassa. Photo: Glenn Ashley

The name Bonamassa apparently means 'good oracle, the shape of things to come'. Well, at least to some etymology geek I Googled.

And I think that quite neatly sums up this affable and unassuming New Yorker who, clad in orange suit, shirt, tie and sunglasses, looked more like an extra in Duran Duran's Rio video than the best rock/blues guitarist in the world he arguably is.

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Despite being on the UK scene for some time, he is mainly adored by his ardent followers and is not exactly a household name - a fact highlighted by an audience occupying probably only a third of the city's largest concert venue.

But by this showing I think that could soon change. Just like his oft-compared peers, the late Gary Moore and the legendary Eric Clapton, not only is this 39-year-old a fretboard genius, but he has a good voice to boot.

And many of his most recent songs have an edginess to them, with unexpected and delightful chord and harmony structures. It is this move from traditional blues which could propel Bonamassa to greater appeal and acclaim in my opinion.

Having said all that, here is a Bona-fida guitar god. It is often indiscernible where this man's fingers end and the guitar begins. Every stretched and vibrato-caressed string, each feedback-controlled nuance, every on-and-off hammered note is imbued with a feeling and passion unashamedly betrayed by his quivering and tortured facial expressions.

Nevertheless every band member is given the chance to show off their fine pedigrees, with Joe magnanimously disappearing into the shadows as his line-up - Michael Rhodes on bass, Anton Fig on drums, Reese Wynans on keys, trumpeter Lee Thornburg , saxophonist Paulie Cerra and backing singers Jade Macrae and Mahalia Barnes - enjoy their moment in the spotlight.

An excellent set, featuring mostly self-penned compositions, but some covers thrown in including Led Zep's Boogie with Stu and rock classic Hummingbird, made for a fantastic evening's entertainment.

The stage moving considerably farther back into the Arena will surely be the shape of things to come when Joe Bonamassa's back in town.

Guitar hero Joe Bonamassa. Photo: Glenn Ashley

Guitar hero Joe Bonamassa. Photo: Glenn Ashley

Joe Bonamassa on stage at Sheffield Arena. Photo: Glenn Ashley

Joe Bonamassa on stage at Sheffield Arena. Photo: Glenn Ashley

Joe Bonamassa at Sheffield Arena. Photos: Glenn Ashley

Joe Bonamassa at Sheffield Arena. Photos: Glenn Ashley