No artist can promise fans they will see a perfect show when he or she steps on stage.
But fans can at least feel confident with Joe Bonamassa and his band that even if it’s the worst night of a tour, the show won’t be a train wreck.
“Here’s the thing, we always say this. We laugh about it a lot. Like the difference between our best night and our worst is only about 10 percent,” says Bonamassa, who heads to Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa for a pair of shows at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Aug. 2 and 3.
“It (the show) is consistent and the band is very consistent.”
That level of quality is something Bonamassa has been building toward for two decades now, show by show, album after album. The same thing can be said of his career.
Since releasing his first solo album, “A New Day Yesterday” in 2000, the blues-rocker has cranked out a dozen more studio albums, including his newest release, “Redemption,” another dozen live releases, four studio albums with the band Black Country Communion, three releases with his other group, Rock Candy Funk Party, and four albums playing guitar for Beth Hart. Between those albums, Bonamassa has pretty much been on tour non-stop.
It’s only recently that Bonamassa has decided he can take his foot off the gas pedal — just a bit. And it would certainly seem like Bonamassa has reached a place where he doesn’t have to tour quite as much or rush through an album project to stay on a schedule. Even though he has never had a hit on rock radio, his albums routinely reach No. 1 on blues album charts and his tours visit a mix of large theaters and arenas.
But it isn’t just his hard-earned success that made Bonamassa feel like he could take things just a bit easier with his career. He reached a point with his life where he felt he needed to slow things down.
“I think it was just life catching up,” Bonamassa says, noting that he’s had some stumbling blocks to overcome over the past year or so. “We’ve been burning really hard for 10 years, ever since 2008. When you jump on the roller coaster, there are some challenges that lie ahead of you. And you end up becoming the person, you become the person that is the job. And you can let that go for so long, and every once in awhile, you’ve got to go ‘Hey, wait a minute, there’s more to life.’”
Bonamassa didn’t get specific about the issues that have made life difficult of late, or about the changes he has been making, saying he’s been quitting things that he found were becoming distractions and trying to find a better balance in his life.
“It’s just one of those things where you just try to ... you ultimately try to become a better person and slow things down a little bit,” Bonamassa says. “That’s the hard part.”
The more reflective stage Bonamassa has reached in life is showing up in his music. “Redemption” is a more inward-looking album for him, with a few songs in particular that seem quite personal and revealing.
Chief among those is “Self-Inflicted Wounds,” a beefy, slow-burning ballad that Bonamassa considers one of his best-written songs, where he confesses to the damage he’s allowed himself to suffer, concluding “The trust in me I have abused/Oh, have mercy on my self-inflicted wounds.” But “Just Cos You Can Don’t Mean You Should,” the title track, and “Stronger Now in Broken Places” (with lyrics by co-writer Gary Nicholson) also speak to life lessons learned the hard way.
Musically, “Redemption” may be Bonamassa’s most diverse solo album. There’s still plenty of his signature hard-hitting blues-rock in songs like “Evil Mama,” “Molly O” and “I’ve Got Some Matter Over What Matters.” But the new album also branches out as it evokes a bit of Tom Waits on “Pick Up The Pieces,” a sassy bit of barrelhouse blues that sounds like it could play in an old west saloon. On “King Bee Shakedown,” Bonamassa and his band put a rockabilly kick into this driving rocker. “The Ghost of Macon Jones” (featuring Jamey Johnson on guest vocals) adds some country to its rowdy sound.
The songs are strong, but getting “Redemption” to its completion presented some struggles for Bonamassa.
“It was just a challenge,” Bonamassa says. “Without question, some of these things will fight you to the bitter end, and this one was no different. Then some of them (albums) come and they make themselves.
“Different records will fight you in different ways. It wasn’t one thing in particular,” he says of “Redemption.” “It was all of the above.”
In the end, Bonamassa is happy with the album and he is playing several of the new songs on his current tour (along with some older tunes that have not been in his live set for a decade or so).
“I think the record came out good,” he says. “People have been responding, so all the pain and suffering was worth it.”