Since I regarded BCC's 2010 debut album as the healthiest slab of Brit-derived heavy rock in some decades, and since the band's "2" was gathering to explode (release 6/14), and since the four were doling out only a handful of stateside gigs before invading Europe, I figured I'd better motor down and tap 'em in the shadow of Angel Stadium. That turned out to be an extremely non-stupid impulse.
It's official: Joe Bonamassa has become a rock star. All he had to do was manufacture Black Country Communion with Glenn Hughes, and hanging out with the Voice of Rock (from Deep Purple and Trapeze) degeekified the dude.
Here Bonamassa stood -- stance aggro, thin dishwater hair swept back, watery eyes barricaded behind wrap-around shades, smart dark shirt splashed with just the right amount of sparkle -- and the orange sunburst Les Paul did the rest. I could hardly believe his voice: Regularly sharing the mike with Hughes could make Al Green squirm, but with Hughes' prodding, the pallid technaxian has emerged as a veritable fountain of soul blues testimony.
For pure mastery of guitar tone, few can match Bonamassa, who cranked the Paul, a Flying V and a double-neck through three Marshalls for an array of prime cut, inflected at judicious intervals with dark Hendrix wah, Echoplex lysergitude and even a wizardly palm-up theremin encounter -- stand back, forces of evil!
After two albums, BCC already own too many classics for one set. From the debut, to name a few, we got the twisty riff of "Beggarman," the huge bash of "Sista Jane" and the dynamic travelin' epic "Song of Yesterday," whose plaintive guitar figure tugged hearts even more effectively in a live setting. The tunes from "2" also kicked instant ass: "Man in the Middle" stenched up fond memories of Aerosmith's "Last Child"; after a devastated slow intro reminiscent of Jeff Beck's "Since We've Ended As Lovers," Hughes poured out the anguish of "Cold" so truly that every chest felt stabbed through the sternum. Did BCC compete with David Coverdale by encoring with Deep Purple's "Burn"? But of course. From screaming to weeping to butt-shaking, the crowd registered all the correct rock experiences.
Hughes' incredible soul wail continued to amaze as he flung back his head and rattled a Vatican's worth of gold rosary necklaces behind his dancing partner, that big ol' worn-down Fender bass. Keyboardist Derek Sherinian, looking like pumped bouncer in black T-shirt, cushioned the musical spaces and even got a "Chest Fever"-style solo interlude. And did I mention that there was a certain burly beardo named Jason Bonham onboard? The drummer, just off the road with his Led Zeppelin Experience, channeled his dad (Zep monster John) with a slosh, a crash and a groove that can't be taught; you gotta git it in the blood.
What, did an hour and a half go by? We musta been HIGH. As Hughes, who turns 60 in August, expostulated, "A little rock & roll never killed anybody. It's keeping me alive, motherf*cker!"
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PHOTOS BY FUZZY BRUKS.