“Oh, Christ. Not another live album from Joe Bonamassa,” we sighed inwardly upon receiving the press release for Live At Carnegie Hall. Still, if a formula’s worth doing it’s worth doing well – and often. And people do keep buying them, so why not?
But wait! This one’s different. Well, we say ‘different’. It’s still Bonamassa wearing a suit, not saying much and being phenomenally good on guitar, playing blues-rooted songs with similarly impressive session types. There’s also bonus interview footage.
And yet there’s something very attractive about this DVD/ CD performance, with its nine piece acoustic band from diverse corners of the globe (percussionist Hossam Ramzy played on Page & Plant’s Unledded album, keyboard player Reese Wynans was in Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Double Trouble) who complement rather than compete with each other.
It’s mostly a well-chosen set for its grand surroundings. After a slightly misfiring This Train (great in it’s amplified rock form on Blues Of Desperation; a bit awkward with a refined, largely seated acoustic group), it’s mostly softer numbers and countrified, almost Ry Cooder-ish strains that thrive in this lavish unplugged environment. And the Flight Of The Bumblebee-esque Hummingbird, a duet between Joe and cello/erhu virtuoso Tina Guo, is so dazzlingly fast and furious it’s quite hypnotising.
This an ambitious, considered and commanding set – not more Joe just for the sake of it.