Sunday, August 20, 2023

Bucket List! Red Rocks with Joe Bonamassa August 6th, 2023

 By Michael Yanko 

Rock Legends Photographers

     Having been a concert photographer since the 70s and shooting thousands of concerts, hundreds of festivals, and nine music cruises, Red Rocks has been on my bucket list for many years. When I got an email from Gov't Mule stating that they were playing there, it piqued my interest. When I found out that Jason Bonham was opening and that Joe Bonamassa was playing the night before, I realized it was time to make a trip to Colorado and cross this one off my list!

     Red Rocks is located in Morrison, Colorado, about a half hour outside Denver. It's surrounded by beautiful scenery, which made for a wonderful drive. We parked at the onsite museum, and then made the one-mile trek downhill to the box office to get our photo passes. The excitement in the air was already starting to build and we met some great people at the box office. One of the people we met was Joe Bonamassa's driver, and he was more than helpful with tips about the venue. The best tip of all was that there was a shuttle to take me up to the top where the venue is. The shuttle dropped me off at the backstage entrance, giving me an opportunity to capture the stunning photo on the next page.

 It takes two 18-wheelers to bring Joe Bonamassa's gear to a venue near you!

    I've seen Joe Bonamassa perform several times, but seeing and hearing him at Red Rocks was an experience never to be forgotten. It rained almost the entire show, but the sold-out crowd came prepared with raincoats and ponchos. Photographing was difficult in the rain, but I did manage to get a few good shots!

     The growing anticipation for the start of the show was climaxed with Tom Petty's "The Waiting," followed by the band's entrance to thunderous applause! 

     Opening the show with "Evil Mama," the band followed up with songs from Bonamassa's huge catalogue of albums including: "Dust Bowl," "Love Ain't a Love Song," "Self-Inflicted Wounds," "I Want to Shout About it" from the forthcoming album, and "Last Matador of Bayonne." 

     To the delight of the crowd the next song featured special guest Warren Haynes (Gov't Mule, Allman Brothers Band) who was scheduled the next night. Bonamassa introduced him by saying "Some people today asked me, 'you going tomorrow, is he coming here?' I said 'well I can’t make it tomorrow but I’m sure it’s gonna be f-cking fantastic.' My friend Jason Bonham is here tonight. I don’t give this man enough credit because over the course of the first hour of this show he’s probably written down 20 things that I’ve f-cking stolen from him on the guitar, including this version of this song by Albert King called 'Breaking Up Someone’s Home' and we’re gonna bring out Warren Haynes right now to play it." The guitar duo jam during this song was astonishing!

     Bonamassa channeled his inner Buddy Guy several times throughout the night, dropping "F" bombs at random. Following the song with Haynes, Bonamassa introduced his band consisting of:  Josh Smith (guitar), Calvin Turner (bass, replacing the late Michael Rhodes), Lemar Carter (drums), Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Reese Wynans (keys), and Dannielle DeAndrea and Jade MacRae (backing vocals). 

      After introductions the performance continued with "Curtain Call," followed by a creative cover of Barbra Streisand's "Prisoner" (Love Theme from Eyes of Laura Mars). Next up was “The Heart That Never Waits."  Following an amazing blues solo, Bonamassa offered up a hint of  “Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers,” giving a brief salute to the late great Jeff Beck! After delighting the sold-out crowd with that tidbit, the band followed up with “Lonely Boy," followed by ZZ Top's "Just Got Paid," which morphed into Led Zeppelin’s “Dazed and Confused” before morphing back into "Just Got Paid." The set ended with a five-minute drum solo and then the band cleared the stage. The crowd was loud and hungry for more. The band returned for the the anticipated encore, “Mountain Time.”  Bonamassa told the crowd that someone posted on Twitter, “Man, I really hope you play ‘Mountain Time’ on the mountain!” He shared that he didn’t plan it, but that it just makes f-cking sense. It was a great ending to a memorable performance!

     Joe Bonamassa is one of the greatest living guitar players and his performances are always extraordinary. Whether you are a blues fan, rock fan, or both, be sure to put Bonamassa on your must see concert list!

For more photos from this show

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