There are many reasons why Joe Bonamassa might have been wearing sunglasses. It might have been sunny; in fact it was sunny...outside.
In the minutes before the American blues rock guitarist stepped onto the stage at Preston’s Guild Hall an ironic shaft of sunshine split the darkness like a spotlight as a door opened behind the VIP seating.
But it was too late to save St Catherine’s Hospice’s annual Symphony at the Tower event. With the Hoghton site turned into a mud bath after days of rain, Joe’s gig was the only one of the scheduled trio of concerts to be salvaged.
But for Joe, blue-suited and shiny-shod, the sun was still shining; he was headlining in Preston and it was, he told his fans as they jostled for position closer to the stage, the consummation of a ‘lifelong dream’ and he was not going to be cancelled by ‘a little rain’. We were all happy to believe him
And so he and his band – the best in the world according to Joe, and I’m not going to argue – played their hearts out. For an hour and 40 minutes they powered through a series of polished numbers that included tributes to Yardbirds’ guitarist Jeff Beck, Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Paige and Cream’s Eric Clapton.
There was little chat, just a seamless transition from one number to the next, with the ground throbbing, the lighting rig in splendidly co-ordinated overdrive and the air thick with guitar licks; Preston Guild Hall was rocking for all it was worth.
Among the hundreds choosing to stand there was some restrained head nodding and, as the night progressed, shouts of “Go Joe!” as he wrung out every last quavering note of emotion from his guitar. I lost count of his instruments, changed between almost every number and, in one instance, mid-way through – one was red, another yellow, one was a cool shape, and they all sounded awesome in the hands of a musician who, at the age of 12, opened for BB King.
Special mention must go to keyboard player Reese Wynans whose fabulous fingering brought the house down, and drummer Anton Fig, whose resumes includes associations with the likes of Joe Cocker, Bob Dylan and Mick Jagger.
A stellar line-up.