Joe Bonamassa performing A Salute To The British Blues Explosion at Newark Castle on Friday 8th July 2016

Images and Review by Kevin Cooper

The rain kept off and the sun remained high in the sky as Joe Bonamassa came to Newark Castle last night on the last leg of a run of five special UK live appearances to showcase a special celebration of the music of Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page.

In a two hour set that paid tribute to the Yardbirds, Led Zepplin, Cream and John Mayall and The Bluesbreakers covers as well as solo material from each of the featured artists, Bonamassa re-arranged them in his own unique style, giving them a whole new breath of life.

Proving beyond any doubt that he is one of the world’s best guitar players, his perfect slide guitar on set opener Beck’s Bolero set the bar for the evening which was constantly raised as the two hour set progressed.

A man who lets his guitar playing do all the talking, the set moved swiftly with Clapton’s Mainline Florida, whilst Boogie With Stu was simply outstanding. How the crowd managed to remain in their seats just defied logic.

It wasn’t until the fourth number of the set that we heard from this genius when he explained that if it had not been for the three men that he was honouring, then he would be engaged in his second choice of employment; a housepainter, before he exploded into the haunting Let Me Love You Baby.

With his fabulous band which included the very talented Michael Rhodes on bass, Russ Irwin on guitars and keyboards, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Reese Wynans on keyboards and the legendary drummer Anton Fig, there were electrifying performances of Plynth, Spanish Boots and Motherless Children.

Whilst you would have to be a die-hard fan of the honoured trio to have known and recognise all of the songs, this was only a minor detail as Bonamassa’s superb playing resounded around this lovely riverside setting.

There was a powerful version of Cream’s SWLABR and a breath-taking closer of Led Zepplin’s How Many Times which was an absolute stand out moment.

For the encore he delivered a song which he has truly made his own, the cover of Tim Curry’s Sloe Gin which received rapturous applause from an audience who were left in no doubt that this man can play a guitar.

His amazingly effortless and lyrical guitar soloing had to be heard to be believed, and as Bonamassa often got lost in his playing, this appreciative audience took that journey with him last night and would no doubt do it again. For me it was just the icing on the cake as I had previously bumped into him earlier coming out of a shop in Newark before the concert; a humble, quiet and shy man, who most certainly comes alive when he has a guitar in his hand and a mic stand in front of him.