Guitar legend, Joe Bonamassa brought his eight-piece, big-band-like production to the Gaillard Center in Charleston, SC on Friday, February 24th, 2017. The show lived up to its advertised hype as “The Guitar Event of the Year.” It was incredible in every, single way.
Starting right on time at 8:00, he played his scorching hybrid of blues rock for more than an hour before stopping to greet the audience. He spoke of his humble history in the Charleston area, playing bars, then the Performing Arts Center in North Charleston, and finally Charleston’s crown jewel, the Gaillard Center.
He proudly introduced “the best band in the world.” Lee Thornburg on trumpet, Paulie Cerra on sax, Anton Figg on drums, Michael Rhodes on bass, and Reese Wynans tickling the keys. He was backed by Australian vocalists, Jade MacRae and Juanita Tippins. Each musician got a chance to shine on their own during the nearly 2½ hour show.
Bonamassa’s obsession with the guitar began at age four, when he got his first instrument from his father, the owner of a guitar shop. As he turns forty later this year, one can hear that he has lost none of his enthusiasm. Not a particularly showy guitarist—there’s not a lot of jumping around, no over-the-head or behind-the-back playing, although I’m sure he has the skills—he allows the instrument and the music to take center stage throughout the show. Switching between no fewer than ten guitars, he brought them to life with his mastery, one pedal, and one effects box. For someone used to seeing guitarists with full boards filled with pedals and boxes, I was amazed at the tones and sounds he created through his skills and equipment.
I would be remiss not to mention the light designer and engineer. When we saw Joe previously in North Charleston, he had only a curtain where muted patterns were displayed throughout the show. This bigger concert at the Gaillard, was accompanied by a light show indicative of the distance this production has come through the years. Colors, sparkly or subdued to match the song, movements and designs perfectly timed, the light show could be considered another member of the band.
Ticket prices are high at the new Gaillard Center and we ticket buyers rightly complain at times. But for any Joe Bonamassa fan or guitar aficionado, this show was well worth the price.