Joe Bonamassa plays Ax-In-Hand

By Evan Thorne

Blues guitarist Joe Bonamassa held an in-store jam-session Thursday at Ax-In-Hand, 817 W. Lincoln Highway, hours before opening for legendary blues man B.B. King at the Convocation Center.

Bonamassa, with his long hair, faded jeans and Uriah Heep T-shirt, could have been anyone else in the store.

It was when he sat down and started to play that it became clear he was of an entirely different cut.

“I was a classical guitar prodigy when I was a kid,” Bonamassa said. “I started playing when I was around four. While I was in school, I’d come home and play for four or five hours, just as long as I kept a B+ [grade point] average. When I was seven, I discovered the blues and decided to rebel against my parents. I was just drawn to the blues; drawn to its simplicity.”

Bonamassa first opened for King at the age of twelve and has toured with him every year since.

Decatur resident Steve Tyus came to see King but decided to check out the opening act to try and get a backstage pass for the concert.

Concertgoer Matt Herrmann, a Bonamassa fan, was enthusiastic about the performance.

“He was very good tonight,” Herrmann said. “He’s beaten anything I’ve ever heard around here.”

Bonamassa’s performance was the result of a WMKB 102.9 FM promotion. The radio station approached the family-owned music store six months ago about Bonamassa’s performance.

Jim Kanas, a former guitar teacher at Ax In Hand, opened for Bonamassa. Kanas played through a “looper,” a 24-bit audio sampler that allowed him to record an accompaniment live, play it back, then solo over it.

“I tried to do something different than what Bonamassa was doing so we didn’t step on each other’s toes,” Kanas said. “[The looper] brings the band element into playing solo without feeling hokey. It gives me the freedom to add layers of sound and take layers away.”