Bonamassa brings electric, acoustic mix to the Tucson Arena

2014-03-27T00:00:00Z Bonamassa brings electric, acoustic mix to the Tucson ArenaBy Gerald M. Gay Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Joe Bonamassa will provide two wildly different shows when he performs at the Tucson Arena this Tuesday.

The last hour-and-a-half of the gig will feature the hard-driving electric fare that fans have come to expect from the talented blues guitarist.

Bonamassa, 36, has 25 years’ experience in the industry and 16 albums worth of music to pull from to make the magic happen.

In sharp contrast, the first 45 minutes of the show will showcase Bonamassa performing an all-acoustic set with an eclectic group of musicians, including Irish fiddler Gerry O’Connor, nyckelharpa player Mats Wester and percussionist Lenny Castro.

“I am opening for myself,” Bonamassa said in a phone interview from his Southern California home last week.

Bonamassa is playing unplugged in promotion of his 2013 CD/DVD release, “An Acoustic Evening at the Vienna Opera House.” The recording serves as his first acoustic venture.

Expect to hear a “best of” mix from that release, as well as tracks from his new album of all original material due out this fall.

How did you get the ball rolling for the “Vienna Opera House” recording? “We had the gig booked before we knew what we were going to do with it. The Vienna Opera House is not the kind of place to bash out electric music unless you are a glutton for punishment. It is made for a cappella singing and opera. It is acoustically perfect, but if you start banging on snare drums, it doesn’t work.”

The album featured Irish fiddle, banjo, toy piano and nyckelharpa. Why bring in such unique instrumentation? “We were going for a Peter Gabriel, world-music type of sound. We wanted to take the music out of that traditional blues mentality. It was a test of the songs themselves. Would they hold up at all if you strip away the electric guitar solos and the flash? By in large, they did.”

How did the audience react at the Vienna show? “I was worried. The opera house doesn’t have air conditioning, and it was the hottest summer in Europe in 10 years. It was pretty warm. I thought the people were going to be lethargic. But they did great. I didn’t have to pay them to clap, so that was cool.”

Your upcoming album will be your first album of all-original material. Why take that route? “After 16 of these things, you start running out of ideas. You tell yourself: ‘You know what might be a novel concept? Writing or co-writing the whole thing yourself.’

Will we hear any of the new stuff in Tucson? “We are so far ahead of it. It doesn’t come out until September. We will definitely play two, if not three by the time we hit Tucson. The people in Spokane will have to live with two. I save the best for you guys.”

Contact reporter Gerald M. Gay at ggay@azstarnet.com or 807-8430.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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