Saturday, December 29, 2012

Joe Bonamassa - Beacon Theatre: Live From New York (2012)

These are just my initial impressions, having only thus far listened to the album twice or so. The sound quality seems a bit muddy, which detracts from the recording a little, but on the other hand, gives it almost a slight bit of a bootleg feeling. After all, not all of Joe Bonamassa's live albums should sound exactly the same, and this one, only a couple years removed from Joe's phenomenal Royal Albert Hall concert, apart from giving some space to some of the new tracks and musical threads he's been working on since then, seems to emphasize Joe's post-star reputation, with several musical guests this time around.

I saw Joe on his Dust Bowl tour (great show, by the way), and I have to say, Slow Train doesn't sound nearly impressive here as it does when you hear it in person, where the sound has a chance to totally surround you. I was really surprised to hear Cradle Rock, as that's a song I don't think Joe's done since all the way back to his early days, on A New Day Yesterday - his rookie live album which, nevertheless, is what got me hooked on the Bonamonster in the first place. The River is another of Joe's songs I really like a lot, but one that I think sounded better on Joe's Live At Rockpalast DVD from six years ago.

It could just be my own musical tastes, but Joe's duets with Beth Hart, John Hiatt, and Paul Rodgers (I was kinda hopin' they'd do Heartbreaker) underwhelmed me (though to be fair, so did Eric Clapton's appearance at Royal Albert Hall). The highlight tracks on this album were the old time numbers Joe's done before, like the always incredible Mountain Time, which was at least as good, and probably better, on Live From Nowhere In Particular which, despite being four years old now (my, how time flies...), would probably be my go to pick of Joe's mature live albums (which counts out the raw intensity of the aforementioned A New Day Yesterday Live).

But best of all is the "bonus track" (I don't know if it was recorded separately or what - I haven't even read the liner notes yet) - If Heartaches Were Nickels. Despite being another song that Joe's done more than once before, including on A New Day Yesterday (Live), and the acoustic version on Live From Nowhere In Particular which is a nice variation, this version, which harkens back to the electric original, is nonetheless sublime, and the best version I have heard ever. I don't know if it was just the mood I was in when I listened to it or what, but this disc is worth its price for that track alone. It renews my desire to learn how to play that one...

In conclusion, I find it kind of scary to look back and think that this album could be considered an over-the-hill kind of record for Joe, now that his career has reached a climax with the Royal Albert Hall spectacle. But, there's no reason to suggest that Joe's career should (or will) contain only one climax, only one 'story arc'. There is plenty of room left to explore and to grow, and if any one artist has the talent and integrity to make it interesting, Joe's the man. His latest studio album, for example - Driving Towards The Daylight - sounds fantastic, and his recent work with the hard-rocking supergroup Black Country Communion is consistently impressive. I ain't givin' up on Joe yet. ;-)

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