Eric Clapton, Jimmie Page, BB King, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Joe Walsh, Jerry Garcia, Vernon Reid--when you think of the best rock guitarists, these are a few names that come to mind. But they are all getting older, and their replacements are few and far between, the most popular of which being John Mayer.
Well, there's another name that belongs in the discussion, and that is Joe Bonamassa. If you read his bio on Wikipedia, you'll learn that he was born in 1977 and raised in Utica, New York, to parents that owned and ran a guitar shop, and that by age 7, he was playing Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix tunes note for note. Today, at the ripe old age of 33, he is one of the best performers I have ever heard.
My friend Nick and I had the pleasure of watching and hearing him play last night in Worcester, MA, and after two and a half hours of uninterrupted brilliance, we both left the theater overwhelmed by this unquestionable virtuoso. In my time, I've attended some outstanding concerts featuring guitarists including Joe Walsh with the James Gang (before he joined the Eagles), Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir with the Grateful Dead, Ron Wood with the Rolling Stones, BB King at the Paradise Club, John Mayal and Mick Ronson in their primes, and Steve Van Zandt with Nils Lofgren in the E Street Band. But last night's show may have been the best, most complete guitar performance I have ever witnessed.
Surrounded by a keyboardist, bassist, and drummer, Bonamassa displayed every type of artistry on the electric guitar, with incredibly original riffs while also occasionally duplicating some of Jimmie Page's most famous ones. At one point, he broke into a 20-minute solo on the acoustic guitar that was as good as any I'd ever heard. He also sang quite capably on most of his songs, but that's not why 2400 people showed up to the concert. It was to hear real music, played purely and elegantly, reminding us that rock and roll is first and foremost a guitar-based genre.