DVD Review – Joe Bonamassa “An Acoustic Evening at the Vienna Opera House”
Few artists reach the pinnacle in their career where self indulgence becomes high art and their fans eat it up with vigor. Joe Bonamassa has been doing due diligence with his amplified guitar pyrotechnics for over two decades, building a strong worldwide fan base through constant touring and releasing multiple albums per year. His second release for 2013, the live DVD “An Evening at the Vienna Opera House,” finds the blues rock guitarist in quite lofty surrounds: a classical music showplace usually reserved for Mozart and ballet, not Muddy Waters and foot stompin’ blues. Bonamassa took this opportunity to invite four unique world class musicians to join him and present an all-acoustic performance which was filmed in stunning high definition video, creating a one of kind experience.
The concert begins with Bonamassa taking his seat center stage surrounded by an arsenal of acoustic guitars that not only form a striking backdrop but serious eye candy for his guitar geek fans. He begins solo and then brings the other players out one by one until the quintet is fully formed. First to join him is Gerry O’Connor, Ireland’s premier tenor banjo player, who also adds some clever fiddle playing. Renowned percussionist Lenny Castro brings a mixed bag of toys, playing water bottle shakers, cajon, washboard, djembe and more. Mats Wester from Sweden plays the nyckelharpa, a chordophone instrument from the 14th century, creating the effect of a one-man string section. And finally Arlan Schierbaum, who worked with Beth Hart and Bonamassa on recent albums, joins in on piano, accordion and harmonium.
The 21 songs range from the fiery delta blues of “Jelly Roll” and the thundering tribal romp “The Ballad of John Henry” to the sweet Appalachian ballad “Around the Bend” and Celtic lilt of Bad Company’s “Seagull.” Longtime fans will recognize the ripping “Woke Up Dreaming” and crowd favorite “Slow Gin,” which is usually a blues burner but this time is so sparse and dynamic you can hear a pin drop.
Bonamassa gives very sparse introductions and thanks throughout the concert, so director Philip Klose artfully folded in insightful video interviews from the musicians who share their impressions of the ensemble and the events leading up to this event. Producer Kevin Shirley with his Midas touch was once again in charge of this production; he along with Roy Weisman and Bonamassa have created a do-it-yourself army with J&R Adventures, writing a new blueprint for independent musicians. “An Evening at the Vienna Opera House” is another fine jewel to add to their crown.
Originally Published atInnocent Words May 2013
Rick J Bowen