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Joe Bonamassa brings blues to Covelli Centre

Correspondent photo / Bob Jadloski Joe Bonamassa played a dozen songs in a nearly two-hour concert Wednesday at the Covelli Centre.

YOUNGSTOWN — Joe Bonamassa played only his second show of 2024 on Wednesday at the Covelli Centre.

It didn’t sound like a band still gearing up after a long layoff.

Bonamassa came out wearing a blue suit (with a black shirt and sunglasses), and over nearly two hours he showed that “the blues” has many colors.

“Shout About It,” from his latest album “Blues Deluxe Vol. 2,” was an early highlight, delivering a heaping helping of bluesy Memphis soul that showcased his backing vocalists — Dannielle De Andrea, Jade MacRae and Ms. Monet — and Josh Smith, the other guitar player in the band.

“Last Matador of Bayonne” is Bonamassa’s “The Thrill Is Gone,” and he made that guitar weep. “Just Got Paid” was a massive British blues rock opus. The encore “Mountain Time” had an Allman Brothers, southern rock vibe.

The stage was in the middle of the floor with seating behind it closed off, creating an atmosphere closer to a theater than an arena.

What really created a theater atmosphere was the sound. Wednesday’s performance might have been the best-sounding show I’ve ever seen at the Covelli Centre.

Bonamassa and his band could raise a ruckus, but just as often, Bonamassa made his solos whisper and purr. At times those delicately plucked notes felt like they were the only sounds in the building.

It was so quiet, at one point during “Mountain Time” when an audience member at least 50 feet from Bonamassa sneezed, the guitar player paused for a beat and said, “Bless you.”

Wednesday’s set leaned heavily on the new album. Six of the 12 songs played are on “Vol. 2” – the two originals (“Hope You Realize It” and “Is It Safe to Go Home”) and covers of songs by Bobby “Blue” Bland (“Twenty Four Hour Blues”), Guitar Slim (“Well, I Done Got Over It”), Fleetwood Mac (the double entendre-filled “Lazy Poker Blues”) and ZZ Top (“Just Got Paid”).

In an interview earlier this month, Bonamassa talked about how the new album showed his growth as a vocalist. Wednesday’s performance did the same, despite his joking that he would be getting fined by his backing singers, who he referred to as the “Pitch Police.”

Bonamassa is the clear focal point in the live show, but he is both confident enough to surround himself with equally talented performers and generous with the spotlight.

Reese Wynans, a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee as a member of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s band, dazzled with his organ playing on “Hope You Realize It” and his piano work on “Lazy Poker Blues.” Drummer Lemar Carter got an epic solo during “Just Got Paid,” but the way he and bassist Calvin Turner built the energy in songs that often stretched to 8 to 10 minutes long was the true testament to their contributions.

In the middle of the show, Bonamassa thanked the crowd of about 2,000 for coming out and supporting him that night and for 25 years of shows in the Mahoning Valley. Performances like last night will keep them coming back.

agray@tribtoday.com

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