Defining the Blues — Bonamassa

A guitar show not to be missed

Joe Bonamassa brings his star-studded band (Steve Mackey (bass), Lachy Doley (piano), Bunna Lawrie (didgeridoo), Bobby Summerfield (percussion), and Late Night with David Letterman‘s Anton Fig (drums and percussion), along with Mahalia Barnes, Juanita Tippins, and Prinnie Stevens on backing vocals)  and blues expertise to Toledo’s Stranahan Theater on Tuesday March 8th.

With 45 albums to his credit at the relatively young age of 44, Bonamassa will feature his latest LP “Time Clocks,” released in October 2021. The hit single, “The Heart that Never Waits,” is described as blues heavy and Bonamassa explains that he “wanted to write a song like Robert Cray. I love the way Robert writes and I wrote this with James House (a relative newcomer to the Blues, with an impressive pedigree in country and roots music) and we got into his (Cray’s) head space. I love the song!”

Learned from BB King
Bonamassa has an ambitious schedule, with this segment of the tour pushing out 25 shows in 40 days from mid February to late March, and the outfit has over 100 shows on the schedule for 2022 already. Bonamassa explains that he prefers shows closer together. “It is hard to get back on stage if you take too much time off. We took two days off recently and it was hard to get back into it.”

The touring life, Joe explains, is pretty consistent. He prefers to travel by bus and likes playing one night shows before getting back on the bus and traveling to the next venue. That was the kind of schedule that the late BB King kept when he toured. Bonamassa has ties to King, as he did cut his teeth with BB King when he (Joe) began opening for the blues legend when Bonamassa was only 12 years old. He says he “is honored to play the same venues that BB King played and to keep the blues alive.”

A Self-managed touring musician
Bonamassa manages his own career with J&R Adventures, which was a unique arrangement for a traveling musician when Bonamassa began J&R twenty years ago.  He explains that they have been “vertically integrated for 20 years. At this point it’s just the way that we do things.” Instead of having different entities handling the varied aspects of the tour, J&R Adventures handles merchandise, the recording and the shows. and they do it all in house. The infrastructure created by that approach and self-management helped to actualize the Keeping Blues Alive Foundation, which has been operating for years,  providing music education to young people. However, during the pandemic, Joe says that he wanted to help out. He wanted to do something  “selfless to help others. And I could, so I did.  I had too many peers and colleagues that had tours ripped out from under them and they were banking on that income.”

The Keeping Blues Alive Foundation raised almost $600,000 and distributed all of that money to musicians. The only requirements for eligibility for $1500 grants was that you had to be a traveling musician and you had to be able to prove that you had gigs booked and that they were pulled or rescheduled. Bonamassa explains that “anybody who has the wherewithal to help should. We (at J&R) have an office full of people and it is a natural extension of what we do. I was so happy that we were able to help so many artists during this tough time.”

Shades of Ohio
Joe sports sunglasses on stage, due to a physiological need to avoid bright lights, which he has had to be cautious about throughout his career. His favorite brand of shades, he says,  are nothing too extravagant — moderately priced Maui Jim’s which he buys at the Sunglasses Hut. The simple and practical reason that he favors that brand? They fit on his head and don’t fall off during his 2-hour shows.

Bonamassa has played Toledo before and he explains that he’s always loved it in Ohio and has always been received well here, adding, “We’re excited to be back on the road and playing shows again!”

$73-153. 7pm. Tuesday, March 8. Stranahan Theater and Great Hall, 4645 Heatherdowns Blvd. 419-381-8851. stranahantheater.com

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