He has a following in the United States, but over in Europe Joe Bonamassa's star shines so bright he can headline Vienna Music Hall, a gorgeous opera house traditionally housing the Vienna Philharmonic. It's a large venue and one that conveys class, so Bonamassa has indeed gone the classy route here, choosing to dedicate his concert to "An Acoustic Evening," an event then documented on the 2013 live DVD/CD set An Acoustic Evening at the Vienna Opera House (the set is available in various permutations of DVD, BluRay, CD). Bonamassa didn't take this task lightly. He's supported by four musicians, all playing a variety of old-timey acoustic instruments (banjo, fiddle, harmonium, mandola, and, naturally, nyckelharpa), surrounded himself with ten acoustic guitars and Dobro, and plays a marathon set list of 20 songs. All this space does indeed give Bonamassa ample space to demonstrate he's skilled at being more than just a jacked-up electric blues guitarist splicing together strands of SRV and Clapton. He sounds comfortable in this setting, perhaps even a little liberated, turning his songs into country-blues and back-porch stomps. There are enough new colors and textures to turn the ear of skeptics who may get a little weary of Bonamassa's never-ending string of releases (at least two a year every year of the 2010s, so far), but the concert itself is also in danger of being too much of a good thing, lasting almost two hours in its DVD/BluRay incarnation (and both have additional hour-long making-of documentaries). The CD is shorter and contains judiciously selected highlights so the casual fans can turn there, but really, anybody who is a serious Bonamassa head will not be disappointed with this acoustic concert, which offers more different and interesting sounds than any other previous Bonamassa album.
An Acoustic Evening at the Vienna Opera House Review
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2