Review+Photos by Ken McCain
October 19, 2017 | San Francisco, CA – After a 15 year absence from the city of San Francisco, California, Smokin’ Joe Bonamassa returned for two nights at The Warfield Theater. He brought along an all-star lineup of musicians. Top performers in their own fields, the band included Anton Fig (drums), Reese Wynans (keyboards), Michael Rhodes (bass), and Lee Thornburg (trumpet). Of course, he came with a smokin’ 15 song setlist that would have fans up on their feet for a standing ovation by only the 4th song.
His music choices that night came from his 12 albums and a few of those that have influenced him from the beginning, like the “3 Kings” and Led Zeppelin. He got his start at the age of 5 years old, and in the next 7 years he gained enough chops to make it to the stage, opening for B.B. King. As a rising star he was able to play along with many of his musical heros throughout the US and the UK, both in recording studios and on stage. His star is still rising, now with side projects like Black Country Communion with the great Glenn Hughes and Jason Bonham, there is no telling where he’ll go. The Warfield Theater was one stop on that path, though, and it was to the delight of all of his fans.
In these days of instant satisfaction and fleeting attentions, it was refreshing to see that there are enough people to go watch an artist, especially of this caliber, for two nights in a row at the same venue. I only wish that I could have gone back for more. He delivered on a promise to play his ass off that night, and he left it all out there on stage. A performance not to be forgotten. The nearly sold out venue got a huge dose of blues guitar from one of the world’s greatest guitar player. Always the showman, he wore his signature suit, complete with tie, and had a cache of guitars to showcase each song appropriately. Instead of wardrobe changes, he would change guitars from the Strat to a custom Les Paul to a Gibson Destroyer, then to a Gibson Flying V for three songs. He’d go from a Telecaster to a sunburst Les Paul to get just the right tone and keeping his guitar tech busy all night.
A couple of highlights for the night were “Slow Train” and Zeppelin’s “How Many More Times”. On “Slow Train”, Australian born backup singers Ronny Tiffins and Jade McRae sang the first two stanzas, then sax player, Paulie Cerra, took his turn on vocals, then sent it over to Joe. And any Led Zeppelin fan would have loved to hear not one, but two renditions of their blues based songs. Belting and hammering out “How Many More Times” with the eight of them on stage was enough to bring down the house. But they treated the audience to one last song before heading off stage for the night.
Catch this show when he comes around to your town, you are sure to see and hear one of the best bands going.
Blues of Desperation
No Good Place for the Lonely
How Deep This River Runs
Some Other Day, Some Other Time (Freddie King cover)
Breaking Up Somebody’s Home (Albert King cover)
Angel of Mercy (Albert King cover) (with Anton Fig drum solo)
Driving Towards the Daylight
Boogie With Stu (Led Zeppelin cover)
Last Kiss (“I’m So Glad” tease)
How Many More Times (Led Zeppelin cover) / The Hunter
Encore: Hummingbird (Leon Russell cover)
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