The album is as you would expect songs from a live concert with cutaway applause which is throughout warm and heartfelt as New Yorkers were lapping up and loving Joe Bonamassa. Yes the album is recorded live and I personally thoroughly enjoyed hearing Different Shades of Blue the title track from his last album live. The album for me though felt flat whilst the guitar playing is superb Joe B’s vocals getting stronger and stronger but yes another album from the man who is making blues mainstream wherever he plays. CD version of Live at Radio City Hall, is a selection of tracks from the concert and interestingly in a different sequence from the video. Now the video is something completely different listen to this first last and forevermore whenever you have the opportunity – the music comes alive and yes the same recording but you can see, hear and feel the audience and the excitement that Joe B is feeling playing Live at Radio City a boyhood dream. All that the CD is lacking can be found here I would have had more of the live interaction incorporated into the CD to differentiate for the studio. The video has an authenticity of a live event, the build up to the show, the anticipation and excitement and throughout the DVD the warm interaction between Joe and the audience, he genuinely is having a great time playing New York at Radio City a life-long dream now reality and as well as the sell-out audience we can all enjoy the performance with two distinct segments opening for himself as acoustic Joe with the Fabulous Huckleberries entertaining and weaving their magic. As the cheers die down the stage is dark and Mats Wester on his nyckelharpa entertains and then the stinging sound of Joe Bonamassa plugged in and electric, with horns and the keys of Reese Wynans the temperature goes up a few degrees and we are pulled into the music once again. This is the drama missing from the album this is live music in your living room and Mr Bonamassa is on fire.
The acoustic set is a musician comfortable with the blues and his music with the confidence to explore and experiment as the Huckleberries weave in intricate Celtic melodies the melding is a perfectly tightly formed Celtic knotted blues full of intricacies and hidden depths. Dust Bowl opens the set full of driving energy and then introduces the skillfully used feature throughout the DVD of the split screen connecting Joe with the other musicians on stage ensuring the viewer at home connects to Gerry O’Connor (Irish Fiddler) Mats Wester (Mandola & nycleharpa), Reese Wynans (keyboardist) and Lenny Castro (Percussionist) there may be no bass but the bass lines are filled in by dramatic and interesting keys and percussion. The nyckelharpa adds a special sound full of celtic warmth and the sound whirls and swirls around the acoustic guitar and Joe’s vocals are strong adding another dimension to the percussive mix as shown on Still Water, the waters may be still but the music is dynamic and very good. When he introduces the The Huckleberries and says ‘Hi!’ to the audience you’re not sure who was more excited to be there Joe Bonamassa or the crowd… no the most excited is Joe. Slide Guitar and Black Lung Heartache, show his dexterity on the acoustic and the instrumentation is once again superb drawing the Blues out of the Delta and twisting it into World Roots derived music. Closing the Fabulous Huckleberries set with a blond wood acoustic guitar and a gentler tone the melodies flow and Joe’s vocals are the best I have ever heard them, the piano from Reese is beautiful on Happier Times. This is unmistakably a clever opening set the cinematography is superb as the camera angles give you a feeling of watching the show and being there as an integral part of the audience.
The electric hour shows Joe as a confident bandleader with the timing sharp and the music pure, the tempo goes up the music texture changes as his regular touring band join him on stage for the main event. This is an artist mature and confident in his own music and the musicians he has surrounded himself with, Keyboardist Reese Wynans, rhythm section of bassist Carmine Rojas and Tal Bergman on Drums and a horn section that is pure delight Lee Thornberg, trumpet, Nick Lane, trombonist and Paulie Cerra on saxophone. The centre-piece is most definitely the searing guitar sound produced by Joe the lead breaks pull you in so you are totally self-absorbed in every action he makes. The set comes alive with and energy and intensity on Hidden Charms, the horns snap and crackle the rhythm section and power and Joe is having fun on stage. The set moves smoothly from one song to the next as you find yourself wanting to hear the next offering but not wanting to stop relishing the track a little bit longer as on Living On The Moon with the horns filling to tonal gaps with their full tour-de-force. His version of Double Trouble is full of tension and the contours of sound is outstanding and the use of little gaps and gentle solos before the lead break is spellbinding. This is blues that is happy to have some funk to change the tempo and play with the beat Love Ain’t A Song has the full funky sound. We even have a Happy Birthday for his Mom on stage before the music picks up again with JB’s big Band approach to the blues with I Gave Up Everything For You, ‘Cept The Blues gain it is the power of the vocals that surprises and the control of the guitar just enough so that your interest is maintained and your ears are awash with a cascade of sound that rises and falls shaping the mood. Closing the set with a ballad that allows the tempo to slow and reflect on the quality of musicianship heard tonight at Radio City Music Hall , he filled the stage and auditorium with a rich warm sound that simply delighted.
The set is a banquet of Joe Bonamassa guitar playing, acoustic and electric there are the visual delights and the tasters of two newly recorded songs, then the next musical delicacy nine unreleased live tracks then the main course of over two and half hours of live footage, all bought together thanks to the artful production of Philippe Klose plus a collectors book and you even have sneak preview into his childhood.
The Bonus is for every fan now and in the future as home, Joe Bonamassa as he shares his thoughts from a young child through to today; we see how the wardrobe is put together and insight from his Mom Debra; it all feels very natural and you get to know the real Joe.
For the first time we have a discrepancy in the doodle paws with the DVD coming out on top.
CD – EIGHT doodle paws out of TEN ….
DVD – TEN doodle paws out of TEN ….
1. I Can’t Be Satisfied
2. One Less Cross To Bear
3. Living On The Moon
4. I Gave Up Everything For You, ‘Cept the Blues
5. Dust Bowl
6. Trouble Town
7. Still Water
8. Different Shades of Blue
9. Happier Times
10. Never Give All Your Heart
11. Hidden Charms
12. Love Ain’t a Love Song
13. So, What Would I Do
Bite the Big Apple (titles)
Dust Bowl (The Huckleberries)
Trouble Town (The Huckleberries)
Still Water (The Huckleberries)
Different Shades of Blue (The Huckleberries)
The Huckleberries – Introducing Acoustic Band
Black Lung Heartache (The Huckleberries)
Happier Times (The Huckleberries)
Never Give Your Heart
Living On The Moon
I Can’t Be Satisfied
One Less Cross to Bear
Love Ain’t A Love Song
Introducing the Electric Band
“Happy Birthday Mom!”
I Gave Up Everything For You, ‘Cept The Blues
So, What Would I do?
Joe Bites The Big Apple – Behind The Scenes