Joe gives Regent a rocking masterclass

IPSWICH is a town that loves its blues - and it was a capacity crowd that greeted an established star of the genre at the Regent.

Joe Bonamassa is a sharp-suited master guitarist from New York who has already clocked up more than 20 years worth of performing and nine solo albums in his 33 years.

If you haven’t heard of him, the feeling was mutual until this week.

“Until 24 hours ago, I thought Ipswich was some kind of beer or ale,” he told us.

“We’re going to Ipswich? Who’s going to know me there?”

Enough fans to ensure a sell-out, though, and they got what they paid for – a feast of Bonamassa’s trademark blues with classic rock riffing.

Opening up with a version of Rory Gallagher’s Cradle Rock, the set featured originals such as The Ballad of John Henry (during which he nearly knocked himself out with a flailing guitar) and The Great Flood with some choice covers, including an inspired reworking of Leonard Cohen’s Bird On A Wire.

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His is a no messin’ show - songs come thick and fast on top of each other with a minimum of audience chat in between; he’s too busy changing guitar for the umpteenth time.

Bonamassa is very much the star: he takes lead vocals on every number and, without a second guitarist to back him up, there’s little doubt of his theatre-filling talent.

His elaborate solos are as much a part of the show as his songs, and they are played with straight-faced virtuosity and stunning ease. Enough to make you forgive him for wearing white trainers with that suit.

This was a gig for blues-rock purists - all two hours of it - although Bonamassa does not lack in crowd-pleasing stagecraft or commercial appeal.

Ipswich might know its blues, but on this occasion it was taught a lesson. Or rather, given a masterclass.

– For more pictures of the concert, go to http://j.mp/joeipswich

JONATHAN BARNES

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