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Beth Hart And Joe Bonamassa - Live In Amsterdam (Album Review)

Tuesday, 25 March 2014 Written by Simon Ramsay

Photo: © Christie Goodwin

​​When Beth Hart and Joe Bonamassa performed the majority of their two collaborative albums at Koninklijk Theater Carré in Amsterdam, the result was truly spell binding. Now, the dynamic duo, and their astonishing band,  have packaged up those two hours of spunky rock, soul and blues covers for consumption in the comfort of your living room. It’s safe to say that if you like their studio records, you're going to love this.

Superb live albums always find the performers breathing new life into their songs, rather than merely playing carbon copy renditions of the studio versions. That's exactly what we get with this release, which recalls a time when concert recordings were mysterious, exciting and essential.   

The fact that many of these musicians have worked together before is clearly responsible for the telepathic and kinetic interaction on display. Together, Hart, Bonamassa and the gang manage the impressive feat of sounding spontaneous while clearly being well drilled.

The swinging ebullience of Something's Got A Hold On Me epitomises that, as Lee Thornberg's magnificent, punchy horn section seamlessly intertwines with Hart's powerhouse delivery and spirited backing vocals, before Bonamassa and keyboard magician Arlan Schierbaum trade solos with much more vitality than on the album version.  

Likewise the climax to Can't Let Go, as the song moves into a cracking jam powered by Bonamassa's regular rhythm buddies, drummer Anton Fig and bassist Carmine Rojas. That increased understanding is particularly evident on tracks from Hart and Bonamassa's debut album 'Don't Explain'. Although impressive, it felt like two musicians getting to know each other. On this effort those songs are injected with the more honed, relaxed chemistry of its follow up, 'Seesaw'.  

Sinner's Prayer is particularly potent courtesy of Bonamassa' hypnotic slide work, while his super cool riff on Well Well packs a more infectious, funky groove and the accompanying solo has some wonderfully rhythmic, lyrical phrasing.

Meanwhile, it really shouldn't be legal to sing as well as Beth Hart. The classy, powerful and varied nuances of Rhymes, smoky Parisian sexiness of If I Tell You I Love You and rip roaring holler on Nutbush City Limits makes a mockery of all things auto tune. Although covering icons like Tina Turner and Nina Simone might faze some, Hart totally owns the songs.

Bonamassa is on typically outstanding form too, making you wonder why some question his position as the most important guitarist of his generation.  His dazzling solo on Eric Clapton's Someday After A While (You'll Be Sorry) melts the fretboard, his blitz of notes on For My Friends is exhilarating and his emotionally drenched lead on Your Heart Is As Black As Night will produce goosebumps the size of golf balls.

But it's the chemistry between Bonamassa and Hart that fires this ensemble.  On the smouldering Close To My Fire his teasing licks are perfectly complemented by her sensual delivery, while I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know finds Hart's devotion heightened by a spine-tingling solo.

Only some strange presentation choices prevent this album from being perfect. The sound fades out after each track, making you constantly feel the CD is about to end and removing Hart's interaction with the audience.  Plus, the record closes with an aimless jam from soundcheck after a flawless rendition of Etta James' I'd Rather Go Blind  has brought the evening to a wonderful finale.

The accompanying DVD  – with all Hart's enthused banter – is without fault, immaculately shot and sounding great with over two hours of fascinating behind the scenes extras. If you missed Hart and Bonamassa's live shows it's essential that you grab this package and make sure to catch them next time out. In a world where music is increasingly manufactured and manipulated, the importance of artists and releases like this cannot be underestimated, nor undervalued.


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