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Hart & Bonamassa Live

Beth Hart / Joe Bonamassa Band

Live at Hampton Court

With a second joint album ‘SeeSaw’ out – see separate review here – this promised to be a very cool show indeed. In the event, it ticked every box. These shows, any far-flung readers, are held in on of the courtyards of the historic Hampton Court Place, with its splendid gardens by the River Thames. A good stage with excellent sound has been set up for a series of shows and the seating in comfortable, not too packed. The tickets aren’t cheap, but you get a well-run experience and an impressive array of refreshments. You just have to hope that it doesn’t rain !   Kevin Shirley is around to work on the sound, but there are limits to even HIS powers and personal connections…..

Just before the show, Joe is talking to a small gathering of concertgoers – including us – and one chap has mentioned first seeing JB at Mr Kyps in Poole, ages ago. Bonamassa ask about an article he read on this being an affluent area of the country. Yes, we tell him, SandBanks has indeed many monied residents. ‘ No trace of that refinement or opulence in the place WE stayed at..’ murmers Joe before sending us all off to our seats so as not to miss the imminent start of the performance.

9 on the dot and the crew launch into ‘ Them There Eyes’, with Joe on a gold Les Paul  ; Hart in tight showbiz strides and silver mini-jacket..thing owns the stage, strutting about in Tina T mode.  Sax trumpet and trombone punch in their riffs but everything is corralled by drummer Anton Fig ( who had been in the London Borderline JB trio we saw )and with subtle extra guitar from Lou Reed-resembling Blondie Chaplin, yes the Beach Boys touring axeman. A Lucinda Williams number is served up drenched in greasy slide guitar.

An Octavia’d cherry red Gibson is in use for the next selection, a heavy churning backbeat evoking the mighty Nikka Costa, queen of rock-soul.   A maple tele is strapped on by Joe as Beth recalls her mother’s love of Billie Holliday. A mellow loping groove from electric piano by JB’s regular accomplice Ron Dzluba before a Buddy Guy style biting guitar solo.

Hart is at her own piano for Tom Waits song ‘Chocolate Jesus’, a Brecht Weill moment giving way to a shrieking tele break ;  later the accordion is produced by Ron for a French street sound selection.  ‘SeeSaw’ itself is flung out into the night air, Joe’s short delay guitar solo flying over the grainy horn riffing.    Hart namechecks the band, which includes bass plucker Carmine Rojas

The eerie ‘Strange Fruit’ has the Line 6 guitar swells that Joe uses on the record. It transfixes the good-natured and attentive crowd. Then we are treated to an extra in the form of Beth’s take on ‘I’d Rather Go Blind’ which again the audience drinks in.

An encore thrash through ‘Nutbush City Limits’ wraps up the performance, which has shown versatility, fabulous singing and instrumental skills that few groups could better. The crew roll on to Holland to make a live DVD as we understand it and the Hampton Court attendees stroll off into the night, very happy with tonight’s show

‘SeeSaw’ is out on Provogue Records

Pete Sargeant

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