Bonamassa: The name itself is polarizing. To some he is a young lama (now quite grown up), an heir to the inspiration of the fiery electric blues from Robert Johnson through Stevie Ray; to others, his fame represents all that is wrong with the very idea of the blues prodigy and with the cultural appropriations of rock ’n’ roll. I decline to enter this debate. All I can say is that I am quite sure that he doesn’t deserve the wrath. Revisiting his recent work at this moment, I conclude that Joe Bonamassa can really stroke it in the manner of his masters, from Albert Collins to Jimmy Page to Danny Gatton, the Telecaster master who was Gatton’s early musical mentor; and he is tireless and ambitious in the way that he tests the limits of his heavy blues/rock style.
For example, when this cult figure of the six strings visits the Ulster Performing Arts Center (UPAC) in Kingston on Tuesday, January 19, he comes accompanied not by a standard rock band and a hot horn section but by an ensemble of world-class musicians including the acclaimed Chinese cellist and erhuist Tina Guo, whose repertoire stretches from classical to heavy metal; and Hossam Ramzy, an Egyptian percussionist and composer who has performed on dozens of film soundtracks and records and was the percussionist on Jimmy Page and Robert Plant’s “No Quarter: Unledded” tour. Bonamassa himself will be playing acoustic guitar at this intriguing show.
As his multi-part live-in-London DVD series attests, Bonamassa never takes performance lightly. Spectacle and real-world grit collide at his shows. The UPAC show kicks off at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $130, $104 and $94 depending on location. They can be purchased in person at the Bardavon box office at 35 Market Street in Poughkeepsie, (845) 473-2072; at the UPAC box office at 601 Broadway in Kingston, (845) 339-6088; or via Ticketmaster, (800) 745-3000. Please note that Bardavon Member benefits are not available through Ticketmaster. For more information, visit www.bardavon.org.
Joe Bonamassa, Tuesday, January 19, 8 p.m., $130/$104/$94, UPAC, 601 Broadway, Kingston; www.bardavon.org.