Just before the show, an excited fan asked the porter in the men’s restroom if he was familiar with Bonamassa’s guitar prowess, exclaiming, “He’s like a combination of Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and Stevie Ray Vaughan!” After the fan walked out, another guy who overheard the exchange, said, “I don’t know where he gets the Jimmy Page part.”
Well, he does now. To close his 2-hour, 15-minute performance, Bonamassa dug into ZZ Top’s “Just Got Paid” before seguing into the midway passage of Led Zeppelin’s “Dazed Into Confused,” duplicating Page’s wizardry nearly note for note. It capped a night on which Bonamassa solidified his reputation as this generation’s premier blues guitarist.
It’s easy to see why people want to compare Bonamassa to guitar greats of the past, as the 35-year-old upstate New York native is essentially a composite of his largely British blues-rock influences. He opened with a versatile five-song acoustic set (taking the stage before the 8 p.m. start time, surprising the many fans still entering the sold-out Pearl) that included Bad Company cover “Seagull” and his own “Woke Up Dreaming” before Bonamassa plugged in for the rest of the night, turning the intensity up to 11.
Assisted by drummer/percussionist Tal Bergman, keyboardist Arlan Schierbaum and bassist Carmine Rojas, Bonamassa showed himself to be more than just an ax-man extraordinaire. Unlike many other top guitarists, he also possesses a strong voice that, on songs such as “Dislocated Boy,” recalled the masculine purr of vocal legend Paul Rodgers.
Bonamassa also showed that he could flex his musical muscle while not diminishing the beauty of songs like “Driving Towards the Daylight.” But it was on heavier numbers such as “Slow Train” and “The Ballad of John Henry” where he fueled his growing legend, revealing himself to be a technical marvel with a soulful spirit as his fingers blazed across the fret board.
Bonamassa, who has recorded at the Palms’ in-house studio in the past and will return there to record his next album, hinted to the largely visiting audience that “BonaVegas” might become an annual occurrence. That’s definitely one for our team, as Bonamassa is a guitarist you certainly want to catch next time around—and every time after that. ★★★★★