Joe Bonamassa: Portland, Oregon Gig Review

On Friday, November 25, 2022, in Portland, Oregon, at the beautiful and historic Arlene Schnitzer concert hall, Joe Bonamassa and his band performed an amazing show. At 7:55 PM the hall went dark as “The Waiting” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers began playing as the band came on stage and took their places in the dark. As the song concluded stage lights illuminated Bonamassa and the band while they began “Evil Mama” from 2018’s Redemption album. “Dust Bowl,” the title song from Bonamassa’s ninth album released in 2011, followed with its mysterious sounding intro followed by a driving beat provided by the rhythm section. It began with a slow guitar intro for a minute before Bonamassa moved up to the microphone and began to sing: “I’m gonna make my own way.”

“Love Ain’t a Love Song” had some great guitar gymnastics that led into an intense jam.  “Self Inflicted Wounds” followed with its plaintiff sounding vocals as keyboard player Reese Wynans played with animated abandon waving one hand in the air in time with the music. After a couple of minutes dominated by keyboards, Joe dove into a heart-rending short guitar solo. One of the backup singers wailed and it was reminiscent of “Pink Floyd’s”  “Great Gig in the Sky” and then both of them joined in for the conclusion.

“Just Cuz You Can” from 2018’s Redemption album had Bonamassa doing some great guitar work as Jade MacRae and Dani De Andrea sang “oooh.” Wynans’ keyboards took over and he did a short solo before Joe came back and did an amazing guitar solo concluded by an ovation from the audience.

Joe Bonamassa performs in Portland, Oregon

“Hidden Charms” was an R&B old time blues tune that was written by Willie Dixon and originally recorded by Howlin’ Wolf.  After a guitar intro the keyboards took over with vocals and then it went back to slow blues as Bonamassa shredded his guitar playing it in octaves which led to a pull out all the stops guitar solo. “Double Trouble” began with the rhythm driving hard like a train as De Andrea and MacRae danced while the keyboards came in for another short solo.

Joe said hello and talked about how he was glad to be in Portland again but expressed admiration for the audience for risking their lives to attend the show. He was referring to the boarded up buildings and abandoned businesses since the protests began in 2020. Then he introduced the band to the audience beginning with John Smith on guitar, Lamar Carter on drums, and Alvin Turner on bass guitar. As already mentioned, Dani De Andrea and Jade MacRae provided backing vocals and the great Reese Wynans of “Double Trouble” fame as was keyboardist extraordinaire.

 “I Didn’t Think She Would Do It” was co-written by Bonamassa, Bernie Marsden, and Pete Brown and appears on 2020’s Royal Tea album and was a fast paced hard rocking number.  Joe called out guitarist Josh Smith as the best guitar player in the world as Smith took over for an extended guitar solo, followed by Wynans once again taking lead on keyboards in his flamboyant fashion with his free hand waving in time to his playing with the other hand. This led into a duo as he and Bonamassa jammed for a couple of minutes before the rest of the band joined in and produced a gorgeously transcendent sound that slayed the audience.

Bonamassa sang “A Conversation With Alice” from the heart to a throbbing beat that you could feel from Carter’s exploding drums.  Joe did a short solo while the throbbing bass drum continued to beat. He played harmonic sounds on his Fender Stratocaster and eventually toyed with a high note until he was passionately playing it as the backing singers sang “ooh, ooh, ooh” in harmony.

“The Heart That Never Waits” was off Bonamassa’s 15th studio album Time Clocks from 2021. It had more of a big band style with the ladies playing an important part both visually as they dance as well as harmonically. Josh Smith played lead and did another solo until Joe took over. The ladies danced in unison while Bonamassa wailed on his guitar as they jammed. It almost had a big band sound as all the band members did short solos until they were all jamming together when they brought the audience to its feet with their conclusion.

The audience remained on its feet for the remainder of the show as the band began playing “Lonely Boy” from 2020’s Royal Tea and that was co-written by Bonamassa, John Holland, and Dave Stewart. The final song of Bonamassa’s two hour set was “Just Got Paid,” a cover of a ZZ Top song that appeared on their 1972 release, Rio Grande Mud. The song was an extended guitar solo with a driving drum rhythm that Joe played until he hit the stratosphere and then played different styles ranging from Jeff Beck to Jimmy Page. The backing singers left the stage and the band cooked as a rocking boogie ensemble as Bonamassa’s played his guitar in response to the audience’s screams and hollers until the song’s conclusion and waved as they all walked off stage.

The house lights stayed dark as the sold out house commenced with screaming, whistling, clapping and stomping until Bonamassa and the band came back out and he wished the audience a Happy Thanksgiving. Then he began explaining how when he and Will Jennings co-wrote the song they were about to do that Jennings told him that he hit the big time and was retiring. He co-wrote “My Heart Will Go On” the theme song for the Academy Award winning film “Titanic” sung by Celine Dion that became the biggest selling single of all time. After the intro they dove into “Mountain Time” from So, It’s Like That , his second album in 2002. Bonamassa introduced the song as being the most requested one from his catalog before he did a brief guitar intro prior to singing alone through the first verse and then in harmony with De Andrea and MacRae for the second.

“West on 80 and it won’t take too long,

‘Til the road starts climbing up to mountain time.”

The singing segued into a guitar solo with minimal accompaniment where Joe said goodnight. Everyone individually took a bow as Joe continued his solo until the entire band joined in and took it to the next level as they hit their maximum stride until the song thunderously terminated and the band waved to the audience while receding from the stage.

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