"Are we ready to do some jamming?", asks Richie Sambora.
Download 2014: Joe Bonamassa & Richie Sambora
Two guitar giants bring bluesy class to Donington
Why yes, Richie. I believe we are. Taking a break from the stadium-conquering day job to play early afternoon in a damp field might feel a little bit of a backwards step for the guitarist, but he looks relaxed and happy, and positively delighted with onstage partner Orianthi, the weekend’s most impossibly cool musician. She counters Richie’s gunslinger pose with a cowboy hat of her own, face concealed behind giant aviator shades and long blonde tresses, but she's no mere sidekick.
As the organ swells on Lay Your Love On Me, the main man reminds us that "we're at the church of Richie Sambora", which may seem a little egotistical, but by the time the song’s faux gospel chorus is reached the atmosphere does seem suitably exultant and the intro entirely appropriate.
Sambora’s voice is a surprise. It doesn’t have the piercing, arena-conquering strength of Jon Bon Jovi, but it’s warm and engaging, with a rasping, life-weary edge on Every Road Leads Home To You. It shines most on the slow blues of Stranger In This Town, as if ballads give him more room to breathe, and while he’s no Paul Rodgers or Joe Cocker, he’s no apprentice either. The song peaks with a guitar duel with the extraordinary Orianthi as they trade licks, he pulling faces, her entirely inscrutable. The finale of Dead Or Alive is another triumph for the pair: the audience provide much of the singing as the two musicians stand back-to-back, wrestling the song's triumphant climax from their instruments. A proper double act. (8) (FL).
There’s something rather endearing about a nerdy-looking guy in a pale grey suit rocking the devil horns hand gesture as he strolls out onstage. Nope, Joe Bonamassa isn’t the most obvious choice for a rain-splattered crowd of metal heads - the purple-wigged Steel Panther devotees with inflatable pink guitars look a little baffled - but amid a soft, steely tones Joe (plus first-rate band) rocks hard into hefty blues rock hooks and chops.
The man is a fabulous guitarist, no doubt - and an increasingly stylish singer these days - and while you can’t help thinking his set today could do with something extra in the way of filling (little bit of banter? Less brooding intensity?) those riffs at the heart of his tunes really are immensely satisfying.
Sprawlingly ‘epiiiic’ closer The Ballad Of John Henry encompasses the many shades of light and dark in his musical arsenal - maybe today wasn’t the the most opportune time to showcase those elongated soft top-of-the-neck lines (lovely though they are), but it’s a commanding feast of colours nonetheless. Smiling bows and thank yous end proceedings on a friendly note, suddenly making the hitherto cavernous stage seem more like an intimate indoor space. (7) (PG)