Saturday, October 1, 2016

Joe Bonamassa - Live From Nowhere in Particular (2008)

1-1. Bridge To Better Days
1-2. Walk In My Shadows
1-3. So Many Roads
1-4. India/Mountain Time
1-5. Another Kinda Love
1-6. Sloe Gin
1-7. One Of These Days
2-1. Ball Peen Hammer
2-2. If Heartaches Were Nickels
2-3. Woke Up Dreaming
2-4. Django/Just Got Paid
2-5. High Water Everywhere
2-6. Asking Around For You
2-7. A New Day Yesterday/
      Starship Trooper/Wurm

This is an album that kind of snuck up on me. It was before the era when Joe would begin to pump out live albums almost as prolifically as he's done with studio albums. As far as I know, in 2008, there was only the live counterpart to Joe's debut album (which is, nevertheless, fantastic), and the much-forgotten (but not un-memorable) Live At Rockpalast concert video. As the title implies, this was not a "destination" live gig, like a lot of Joe's subsequent live albums (which read like a who's who of prestigious concert venues - Royal Albert Hall, Beacon Theatre, Vienna Opera House, Red Rocks, Radio City Music Hall, Greek Theatre, etc.), but sounds more like a hodgepodge of recordings gathered throughout a tour (which, sometimes, is the way you get the best live recordings, rather than staking everything on a single night - although Joe is a very consistent performer).

The second time I saw Joe Bonamassa live in concert (in 2007), he was still a small and relatively unknown act, playing an outdoor arts festival. But, already a huge fan by this time, I brought my dad and my brother out to hear him play. When he launched into the extended instrumental section of ZZ Top's Just Got Paid, and started jamming out on a solo lifted from Led Zeppelin's Dazed and Confused, I was blown away. I felt like I was listening to Led Zeppelin in concert during the '70s! I thought for sure this was going to be a limited concert special, as Joe had seemed to largely avoid the "obvious" choices for classic rock covers, whether to solidify his reputation as a "true" fan of the music (who doesn't just play the popular tracks), a "serious" artist, or otherwise. But I thought to myself, I hope he puts out a live album from this tour, because I want a recording of this song to listen to over and over again.

Little did I know, Just Got Paid (complete with its extended jam solo) would become one of Joe's enduring live staples (never recorded in the studio - not that there'd be anything to gain if it was), along with Sloe Gin, heard for the first time live here (as I heard it for the first time ever - even before the album came out - at that show I attended, and instantly pegged it as one of Joe's best songs), and one we won't hear until Joe's next studio album. Regardless, that's where Live From Nowhere in Particular came in, which also contains recorded evidence of the soaring, ten minute epic that Mountain Time had grown into, since its humble beginnings as a sweet but mostly forgettable track on So, It's Like That. And those are just the highlights of this incredible live album.

Even the acoustic set is capable of holding my attention, with an unplugged version of one of my favorite of Joe's electric blues, If Heartaches Were Nickels, and the much anticipated live version of Woke Up Dreaming (eight minutes long!), that I've been hyping up since Blues Deluxe. Meanwhile, the last two albums' opening tracks have been converted into full-on acoustic numbers (it's no wonder I have trouble remembering which of these songs are acoustic and which are electric sometimes). Ball Peen Hammer is a little too "jangly" for my tastes, but the stripped-back arrangement (not trying to be an electric song half the time) draws more attention to its lyrical merits. I still prefer High Water Everywhere, though, which makes for a pretty rollicking acoustic song, featuring some of that fancy fretwork that must have been left over from Woke Up Dreaming.

Hailing from You & Me, this album also features the first live version of Bridge To Better Days, which sounds great as a set opener, with its chunky riff and extended solo. Walk In My Shadows dips back into Joe's early catalog, proving that he's lost none of his fire in his recent attempt to branch out and reach wider audiences - even placed alongside a typically searing live version of the slow blues So Many Roads. Another Kinda Love fulfills its function as a satisfying filler song, and a funkier take on One Of These Days manages to improve upon its studio counterpart. The show's encore features an especially dynamic version of the pretty piano ballad Asking Around For You, which places keyboard player Rick Melick in the spotlight. (Joe's band at this time also includes Carmine Rojas on bass, and Bogie Bowles on drums).

Finally, we get to hear how Joe's first big hit - A New Day Yesterday - has evolved over the years, shortly before he would retire it from his live shows. It still sounds heavy, but it's not as pure and undiluted as it was before - almost as if Joe had gotten bored of playing it the same way so many times. Now he wanders off onto a musical tangent - albeit an interesting one, incorporating the instrumental portion from Yes' Starship Trooper/Wurm. It's an apt demonstration of the simultaneous principles of homeostasis and transistasis that Joe - ever the evolving musician - paradoxically embodies in his career. Every time you hear him, he's the same Joe you know and love, but he's always got something new and exciting to play for you.

Rating: 💿💿💿 Frequent Spin

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