Drenched in the essence of Americana, blues rock guitarist Joe Bonamassa stands as a symbol of a playing style deeply rooted in the past. Infusing a modern twist into the genre, this suited Les Paul virtuoso has successfully carried the torch for the blues greats who laid its foundation.
My first encounter with Bonamassa took place during my naive teenage years, a bare-chested and clueless 15-year-old embarking on the initial steps of adulthood during a week of work experience. Seeking refuge from the monotony of stacking bread shelves or the tedium of spreadsheet cells, I inquired at a local guitar shop, and to my luck, they took me in.
Although my guitar-related tasks were minimal, the week left a lasting impact. Surprisingly, I spent most of my time making tea for the shop’s seasoned guitar aficionados. Amidst this, a constant presence in the background was Joe Bonamassa’s 2009 release, “Live from the Royal Albert Hall.”
At that time, I despised it. The intricate technicality and blues scales were anathema to my younger self, who was more inclined towards the entry-level angst of Nirvana than appreciating the commendable work of the American guitarist. However, over the years, I have grown to respect Bonamassa for his refined fretwork and profound understanding of music.
Bonamassa not only approaches the blues with utmost respect, reworking it for the contemporary era, but also offers genuine insights into other musicians’ work—an attribute that stems from a dedication to the craft that defines an increasingly rare feat.
Among his intriguing accounts, one stands out: his list of the five greatest frontmen of all time. In a conversation with Classic Rock in 2021, Bonamassa unveiled his picks, naming Bono, Mick Jagger, and Free’s Paul Rodgers as the greatest to grace the stage, following his hero, the iconic bluesman B.B. King, of course.
The inspiration for this list came through U2’s 1988 song ‘When Love Comes to Town,’ featuring B.B. King himself. Bonamassa emphasized, “To me, Bono is right up there with Mick Jagger, Robert Plant, and Paul Rodgers as one of the greatest frontmen in rock.” He continued, “But when you watch the video of this song that was broadcast on MTV – back when the ‘M’ stood for ‘music’ – you can see that even Bono himself knows there is only one King on that stage – first name Riley.” Listen to ‘When Love Comes to Town’ below.
<iframe width=”786″ height=”442″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/_TGU35i8czo” title=”U2 – When Love Comes To Town (Official Music Video)” frameborder=”0″ allow=”accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture; web-share” allowfullscreen></iframe>