Joe Bonamassa at the Royal Albert Hall

“Welcome to England!” That’s how suspicious London Airport immigration officials finally greeted the scruffy, nervous young American blues guitarist when he first arrived in this country, way back when.

But his debut visit to the U.K had begun somewhat inauspiciously. “And what are you doing here?” Earnest explanations followed. “I’m playing at the Royal Albert Hall tonight.” They didn’t believe him. Telephone checks were made. Hey Joe, Whaddya know? He was!

It’s a story Joe Bonamassa regaled audiences with on the night of his 15th anniversary show at the historic London venue (April 5th). The last time we saw Joe in action was at the High Voltage festival, Victoria Park, London in 2010 when he was supporting Emerson, Lake & Palmer making (as it turned out) their last ever live appearance.

A lot of guitar cases have passed under the airport terminal barriers since that memorable afternoon. The well spoken, highly professional musician has since achieved great success, having enjoyed TWENTY SIX NUMBER ONE albums in the U.S. Billboard Blues Chart, more than any other artist in history.



It’s oft claimed that his first RAH show in 2009 ‘Changed his career overnight.’ That’s when he was joined on stage by Eric Clapton lending both moral and musical support. So it was fitting to hear the cheers that greeted Joe and his band when they stormed into their opening numbers of  2024,  showing if proof be needed his British fans remain staunchly pro-Joe.

‘Hope You Realise It (Goodbye Again)’ reminded us his band is no casual 12 bar blues jamming outfit. Here were well constructed songs, embracing moods and styles from hard rock to savoury soul and with the blues still at the core. On display was Joe’s guitar mastery, his vocal expertise and the band’s focussed, often explosive attack. With the added bonus of featured girl singers Jade McCray and Danielle de Andrea this was an irresistible package that left this reviewer speechless and unable to swallow the slices of hot pizza served in his plush Private Box, without choking.

Well, it was a special night with friends and a little luxury makes up for all the nights I’ve sat on the floor at the Royal Albert Hall watching everyone from Cream to Jimi Hendrix, Dire Straits to Gary Moore, in considerable discomfort.

Gazing down from a great height at the stage it was only polite to raise a can of lager, kindly delivered by attentive attendants to toast our entertainers as they stormed into ‘Twenty Four Hour Blues’. Those guitar players sharing our lofty view point fretted over the astounding speed of Joe’s finger work while I was most impressed by the double bass drum pedalling of super percussionist Lamar Carter.


There weren’t too many distracting special FX, beyond puffs of smoke over the stage, just the band with Hammond organ player Reese Wynans filling the sound and adding scintillating solos while Josh Smith supporting Joe  on his Ibanez guitars took care of business in his own confident style. (Hush, some of our number opined that Josh was even better than Joe).

Actually, at one point Mr. Bonamassa assured the audience that all his gathered musicians were superior to their leader in terms of technique and experience. Maybe so, but Joe has the MAGIC and makes it all happen.

He sang with inner emotions revealed on some of the best numbers of the night ‘Self Inflicted Wounds’ and the slow paced ‘Last Matador of Bayonne’ although my favourite was ‘Breaking Up Somebody’s Home.’ Lengthy soloing unleashed Bonamassa-mania spurred on by Josh the Mosh in his hat, as the virtuoso guitarists dominated the stage even while the girl singers danced their approval.

Perhaps the most significant moment came when Joe slipped in a chorus from Led Zeppelin’s ‘Dazed & Confused’ in the midst of ‘Just Got Paid’. If he was still with us, I think John Bonham would have been vastly impressed by Lamar’s explosive solo and would no doubt have insisted on buying him drinks in the Green Room after the show. He might even have asked for tips – on how to play brushes so quietly.

Well it was time to end the show (on the dot) with ‘Cross Roads’ leaving me wondering – where’s Eric? I remember E.C. lamenting a few years ago on a Breakfast TV interview that the great British public were no longer interested in rock guitarists and their music. Clearly not the case. Joe Bonamassa has made sure of that. CHRIS WELCH