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Joe Bonamassa – ‘Tales of Time’ [DVD/Blu-ray Review]

There is much to enjoy about Joe Bonamassa’s ‘Tales of Time’ (J&R Adventures), if not for the location and atmosphere alone. Musically faultless and visually stunning.



Joe Bonamassa ‘Tales of Time’ cover artwork

As a fan of traditional (old times) blues, from the likes of John Lee Hooker, Howling Wolf and B.B. King, I find that modern blues, with its slick production and association with new country, leaves me cold. So it was with trepidation that I entered the world of Joe Bonamassa (with whom we chatted in 2020) and watched his new live DVD/Bu-ray, Tales of Time. (Order your copy here.) Sold by the accolade that he has received from some of the great guitarists of our time, Eric Clapton being one of them, I was happy to give this a go. Joe also opened for B.B. King when he was just fourteen, cementing the way forward to the status of Blues Legend himself, so this was even more reason to check him out.

This last night of his 2022 tour finds him in the familiar surroundings of the Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado, immortalised by U2 in their classic 1983 live film, Under a Blood Red Sky. The visuals at the start of this live DVD are stunning, looking out across the landscape and finally landing on the vast stage that acts as Joe’s playground for the next two hours.

The bulk of the set is a non-linear journey through Joe’s most recent album, Time Clocks, and he performs every song, much to the delight of his audience, who often appear to be part of his cult. “I love you Joe,” is heard frequently.

“Notches” is an epic opener and a perfect way to show Joe’s guitar skills early on. In fairness, this could be said of any of the songs performed tonight.

“The Heart that never Waits,” however, is melodic and features an intricate guitar solo in the middle that echoes Eric Clapton at his best, and it almost silences the audience. It is moments like this that win me over quite easily. Joe is humble despite his appearance as a full-on Rhinestone Cowboy, complete with black-as-hell shades. He admits in an interview that when he played with Clapton, he couldn’t actually believe that he had even heard of him.

“Curtain Call” is interesting as it almost enters prog-rock territory, particularly Gabriel-era Genesis. Joe prowls the stage in a sinister fashion, playing out a very Genesis-like solo. I would have enjoyed more of this and less of the more country-tinged songs like “Mind’s Eye” and “Known Unknowns,” which unfortunately did leave me cold.

It’s when Joe experiments that his music becomes more interesting, particularly on “Why d’ya hve to be so mean?” which takes on an almost honky-tonk approach, then changes direction completely with a Cuban-style drum solo from Lemar Carter. “The Loyal Kind” also plays with genres, sounding like The Eagles before going all Oriental.

For me, the highlights were probably the least country-like “Evil Mama,” a hard rocker from 2018’s Redemption album, Gary Moore’s “Midnight Blues” – a song performed much more in the style of traditional Blues, and “I didn’t think she would do it” from 2020’s Royal Tea album. The latter plays out like The Who in their more bluesy live moments and heavily echoes Jimi Hendrix’ “Fire” in its majestic riffs. I realised at his point that I prefer the material from Joe’s earlier albums.

Final track, “Mountain Time,” is as epic as a show-closer should be, co-written with Will Jennings, Joe tells the story of how it was written just prior to Jennings beginning work on the Titanic soundtrack with James Horner. His story is punctuated with loving whoops and love-calls from his ever-adoring audience.

Bonus features on the disc are songs “Dust Bowl” and “The Ballad of John Henry,” taken from Joe’s back catalogue (2009-11 respectively) and finish the show properly in classic blues style.

I can’t say I was won over completely, but then I’m just old-fashioned. That said, there is much to enjoy here if not for the location and atmosphere. Joe certainly has his loyal followers, and he also has his massive musical talent, so this is a love affair that will go on for a long time to come. Musically faultless and visually stunning.

Joe Bonamassa is on tour throughout 2023, with several dates here.

Director: Scot McFadyen
Starring: Joe Bonamassa and his band
Production Company: J&R Adventures
Distributed by: J&R Adventures
Release Date: April 14, 2023
Run Time: 110 minutes

Del Pike is a University lecturer in Film and Media in Liverpool (UK). He writes film, music, art, literature and culture articles and reviews for a number of websites. Del loves nothing more than snuggling down in a dark cinema, getting sweaty at  a live gig or drifting off late at night to a good book. He loves cats. He enjoys promoting new talent online so please say hi if you have something to show.