Joe Bonamassa - Inducted into The Cavern Club Wall of Fame, Liverpool, June 2016

Joe Bonamassa and The Cavern Wall of Fame

As we stroll through the centre of  Liverpool, it appears unusually quiet. Suspiciously quiet in fact. There are of course shoppers about looking for bargains as well as entertaining market stall characters looking to entice them. Business executives make their way across the centre of this wonderful North West England city with a formal and focused demeanour,  and there are many street entertainers doing their best to catch our attention. But overall it just feels a bit pedestrian today. However, as we turn in to Mathew Street it instantly becomes very clear where everyone has been hiding! Today a very special event is taking place at one of the most important music venues of them all, the legendary Cavern Club: the iconic American blues rock guitarist Joe Bonamassa is being inducted into The Cavern Club Wall Of Fame.


It's a very relaxed and casual Joe that meets us ahead of the ceremony. Dressed in jeans, green jacket and blue baseball cap, he has been able to blend in to the surroundings as he covertly wandered around this city this morning. However, you would be mistaken for interpreting this laid-back exterior to appear as though he is tiring of recognition. As we ask Joe what it means to have his name on The Cavern Wall of Fame, we receive a very animated response.


"Well you know I didn't expect this! They told me about this last week. We just booked this gig because it's been on our bucket list for a long time to do it, and we figured there's no better way to do this British Blues tribute than to come here and bash it out for one time!"

 For the very first time, Joe will preview music from his forthcoming British Blues Explosion UK concerts, paying homage to the music of Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, and Jimmy Page. Billed as Joe Bonamassa: A Salute To The British Blues Explosion, shows  are taking place at Hoghton Tower, Lancashire (Saturday July 2), Glasgow Clyde Auditorium (Sunday July 3), Bristol Colston Hall (Tuesday July 5), Greenwich London Music Time Festival (Thursday July 7), and Newark Castle, Nottinghamshire (Friday July 8).  In contrast, today's show at The Cavern Club is an intimate "invitation only" gig. Whilst the guitarist may now be accustomed to headlining the world's biggest arenas, it's for an audience of only 172 very privileged people whom Joe will be performing for tonight. Given the polar opposite audience we were keen to understand what it means to actually play The Cavern.


"Well we’re gonna be real freakin’ loud in there! But it's hallowed ground. It's kind of like when I look back on Mr Kyps (music venue in Poole, UK, the first to host a Joe Bonamassa show - Ed). We did Carnegie Hall back in the day and The Fillmore in San Francisco. It's that kind of gig!"


As the brick bearing Joe’s name is placed on to the famous wall, it is with huge pride that he recognises the names of his heroes around his own: Howlin’ Wolf, Jimmy Page, Jimmy Hendrix and The Yardbirds.

As the ceremony concludes, the attention turns towards tonight’s show. As we enter The Cavern and descend 2 flights of stairs underground, it’s clear to see why this is such a special venue. The bare bricks, adorned with the names of visitors from all over the world,  together with the subdued Merseybeat tracks seeping through the walls into the Live Lounge, take us back to the 60s and serve as a reminder of what a huge impact this northern England city, and The Cavern Club in particular, had on modern music, the likes of which we are never likely see again.


Wearing his almost trademark sunglasses and, despite the heat, a smart jacket, Joe takes to the stage with his Les Paul promptly at 8pm. Providing another nod to how special this gig is to him, he is also proudly sporting an official Cavern Club t shirt. The show kicks off in fine style with a cover of Jeff Beck’s Beck’s Bolero before quickly moving into Rice Pudding. Without hesitation we are treated to Mainline Florida by George Terry. Swapping his Les Paul for a telecaster, Joe rips through Led Zeppelin’s Boogie With Stu. And it's these opening tracks that really spell out what this show is really about: wholeheartedly celebrating British blues rock at its very best and performing them with the proficiency and intensity that does the original artist proud.


Before too long, the heat takes its toll and the jacket is removed. However, instead of passing it to a roadie, Joe gives it to a lucky fan in the front row who goes on to enjoy the rest of the show with a huge smile on his face. Feeling a little cooler ironically serves to turn up the heat on Joe’s performance as he powers through tracks such as Let Me Love You Baby, Plynth, Spanish Boots and Little Girl.


Due credit needs to be give to the phenomenal band backing Joe tonight who are introduced with the greatest respect and appreciation. And what a stellar gang of musicians they are. Russ Irwin (Aerosmith) accompanies Joe on guitar; Michael Rhodes (Buddy Guy, Brian Wilson, Emmylou Harris) on bass, drummer Anton Fig (Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, Joe Cocker) and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee Reese Wynans (Bob Dylan, BB King, Ace Frehley) on keys. 


After briefly leaving the stage, the band return to deliver the track everyone has been waiting for: Sloe Gin. Beautifully executed with equal parts emotion, bombast and the most controlled virtuosic aggression, the crowd are clearly satisfied. Finally, it's Tax Man that brings this epic show to the most euphoric of conclusions. This has been a very, very special show indeed and we feel very proud and humbled to have been able to share this moment. The full set list was as follows:-


Beck’s Bolero/Rice Pudding

Mainline Florida

Boogie With Stu

Let Me Love You Baby

Plynth

Spanish Boots

Double Crossing Time

Motherless Children

SWLABR

Tea for One/Can't Quit You Baby

Little Girl

Pretending

Black Winter/Django 

How Many More Times

Sloe Gin

Tax Man


Enjoy the photos of the show below. Joe's latest album Blues of Desperation is available now.