PHOTOS + REVIEW — Joe Bonamassa Sarasota 2023

Joe Bonamassa w/ Van Wezel • November 30, 2023 • Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall — Sarasota, FL • Photos by —

REVIEW — Joe Bonamassa

November 30, 2023 | Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, Sarasota, FL
Review by: Randy Cook ///

Over the past couple of years, my friend Dave had tried several times to get me to go along with him to see legendary blues rock guitarist Joe Bonamassa every time the band came to town. Sadly I never took him up on the experience nor did I ever take the time to check out any of the band’s music. In February 2020 one of my friends won tickets to his show and invited me along – I told myself that I wanted to go in ‘deaf and blind’, thereby seeing and hearing for myself what Dave had been trying to convey to me for many moons. Let me tell you I was instantly hooked from the first note this man played. Absolutely blown away is more like it. Never In all of my concert going days have I ever walked away from a show so completely blown away by the talent I had just witnessed and hungry to hear everything in his discography that I could put my ears on.

Being a known metalhead one might say that Joe Bonamassa’s music is quite a change of pace for me, but I know what I like and I know talent. This man has exceptional talent with his instrument, his vocal delivery and his songwriting abilities. This was my third time seeing him perform live and let me tell you of the musical journey he took those of us in attendance through. Fusing rock-n-roll into the blues, Joe is a master of his instrument and combined with the acoustical superiority of the venue the show was out of this world phenomenal. I walked out of there thinking that Joe may be the greatest axeman to ever walk this planet in my opinion.

One thing to note on my drive from St. Petersburg to Sarasota for the show, I saw a cruise ship going under the Skyway Bridge just as I was beginning the vertical climb up the bridge’s span. In all of my life living here I have never seen that and it was an amazing site. Sadly, I was not able to safely capture a photo of the ship but what a memorable start to a fantastic evening.

This was my first time at Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall and I arrived at the venue with plenty of time to find my way to the box office and get settled inside. As a people watcher I find the age demographics of the Shows I Go To interesting and I was surprised for a much older demographic here in Sarasota versus the two Clearwater shows I have seen of Joe’s – like a distinctive difference in age. I was expecting at least a few youngsters accompanying their parents to see a guitar master but that was just not the case this evening.

Just as the tickets say the show started exactly at 8 PM sharp. Actually the lights went dark four minutes early and we were treated to the sounds of Tom Petty’s ‘The Waiting’ as the moments ticked down to show time. With a four piece band behind him and two amazing backup singers, Joe took the stage and launched into ‘Hope You Realize It (Goodbye Again)’. From the very first notes of this show, and I would also say for the entirety of the show the audience, myself included, was mesmerized by his magical mastery of the guitar and the delivery of his soulful, passionate lyrics.

As amazing as Joe is as a guitar player, so fluidly manipulating his volume and tone knobs to achieve amazing crescendo and decrescendos, from the most powerful rock riffs to the softest notes that accentuate the feeling of the song, it is also the mastery of his backing band that solidifies the live experience of seeing and hearing these songs performed. Joe’s backing band is Reese Wynans (who grew up in Sarasota) – Keyboards, Lemar Carter – Drums and Percussion, Calvin Turner – Bass Guitar, Jade MacRae – Vocals and Percussion, Dannielle DeAndrea – Vocals and Percussion as well as Josh Smith – Guitar.

It was over an hour, seven songs into a twelve song set list before there was any chit chat with the audience, literally the first hour was nothing but solid kick ass blues and rock before Joe said hello to us and introduced his backing band. This was the first time I had seen Joe with a full backing band and one of my thoughts during the show was if you are the backing guitarist for Joe Bonamassa on stage, you must be one hell of a guitarist in your own right and let me tell you, the two solos where Josh Smith was featured were absolutely flawless. And when Joe brought out a local musician , Selwyn Birchwood, to join in on one of the songs and after seeing and hearing Selwyn absolutely shred on his guitar, I thought wow, there are three kick ass guitarists up there all at once! The show lasted just over two solid hours that seemed to go by in an instant. The show was that kick ass.

Near the end of the show where Joe was mentioning his album, Blues Deluxe was released twenty years ago and was his first US Billboard Top Blues Albums number one release and now all this time later, with the growing and faithful support of his fan base, his latest release, Blues Deluxe, Vol. 2 is his TWENTY SEVENTH US Billboard Top Blues Albums number one album. With that statement the crowd gave him a standing ovation.

I was able to meet a fellow Shows I Go To teammate for the first time at this show. Daryl, our media coordinator and fellow contributor and photographer, it was great to put a name to a face and share the comradery of a live show and fantastic music, as Daryl and I obviously share the same passion for live music and capturing the essence of the performers. From the seats he and I received which were dead center and a perfect view, I salivated over how fantastic the lighting was for this show.

The performance I witnessed this night again solidified my opinion that Joe Bonamassa is one of the greatest axe slingers to ever walk this planet. He plays so effortlessly and creates very memorable music, enough to capture my rapt attention for the entire show. I already have eyes on my fourth Joe Bonamassa show in Clearwater in March 2024 at the new waterfront venue, The Sound, and will have my eye out for any future shows of his that I am able to attend, near or far. It was a fantastic show and I highly recommend anyone on the fence to see this guitar virtuoso like I was a few years ago to go and check him out.

Joe Bonamasa Setlist for November 30, 2023:

Hope You Realize It (Goodbye Again)
24 Hour Blues
Well, I Done Got Over It (Guitar Slim cover)
Self-Inflicted Wounds
I Want To Shout About It (Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters cover)
The Last Matador of Bayonne
I Feel Like Breaking Up Somebody’s Home Tonight (Ann Peebles cover)
The Heart That Never Waits
Is It Safe to Go Home
Lazy Poker Blues (Fleetwood Mac cover)
Just Got Paid (ZZ Top cover)
Mountain Time

MARCH 14-17, 2024


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