With the release of Live At The Greek Theatre, bluesman Joe Bonamassa officially has as many commercially released solo live albums (12) to his name as he does solo studio albums. If these were just ordinary sets of his normal material, this would be termed an excessive and cynical attempt to extract as much money as possible from collectors of his releases. However, of late Bonamassa has been doing a lot of specially themed tours, meaning that all of the resulting live releases are completely different to each other. This particular show was the closing night of Joe's Three Kings Tour, on which he celebrated the music of BB King, Albert King, and Freddie King, and follows his previous live album Muddy Wolf At Red Rocks, where he paid tribute to two other blues greats, Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf, at the Red Rock Amphitheatre in Colorado. Although a well shot, and beautifully mixed, collection of the best songs by each of the three Kings, Live At The Greek is not for fans who revel in Joe's fiery guitar playing. As much about the interplay between his assembled band as it is Joe himself, when he isn't at the microphone applying his trademark vocals, he's more of a sideman than a lead guitarist, mostly playing rhythms. He gets a little more opportunity to peal off some solos on the Freddie King tracks, Freddie being the rockiest of the three, but in general this is much more laid back blues than Joe normally plays himself. This isn't of course a bad thing for anyone wanting to experience another kind of Joe Bonamassa show, but it is not an exercise in melding his modern, heavier playing with the songs of the past - he pays them greater respect than that. Visually the concert is of course excellent, although they should have turned the centre spotlight down a little so that Joe's face and guitar weren't quite so whitewashed most of the time, and the setting of the historic Greek Theatre in Los Angeles only adds to the aesthetic. It's important for fans considering buying this to know what they're getting beforehand, and anyone looking for a high quality live document of what Joe typically does should look elsewhere, either at the extensive Tour De Force DVDs, Live At Radio City Music Hall, Live From The Royal Albert Hall, or Beacon Theatre: Live From New York. For the fans who already have all of those and want a different side of Joe, this is perfect. The final part of Joe's trilogy of tribute shows to the masters of blues came with his British Blues Explosion Tour in 2016, honouring Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page. A live recording of that will complete the trilogy of releases too.Written by Andy Lye
More: 2016, Blues, Live DVDs, Quickplay Reviews, Joe Bonamassa
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