Joe Bonamassa is well aware that some of you don’t like him.
The New York singer/guitarist knows that, for everyone who loves his fiery mix of blues, rock and soul, or his jaw-dropping guitar work, or his ultra-cool, swaggering, sharp-suited onstage persona, there’s someone who doesn’t like any of it.
“I’m a very argued-about guitarist,” he says. “All you have to do is get on any Internet forum and type in my name, and you’ll see the pros and the cons. People either love it or they hate it; I’m not just warm water. And I like that. To me, it isn’t a situation where I sit there worrying about how many people like what I do; you either like it or you don’t. That’s just the reality when you put yourself out there.”
Bonamassa has gotten used to shrugging off the criticisms of those who don’t like his music. After all, this is a guy who started his music career at age 12, opening for B.B. King. You’ve got to have some thick skin and some serious chops to do that.
Of course, it probably also helps that a lot of people like what Bonamassa does. He’s had 22 albums (yes, twenty-two) hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Blues Albums chart, and he’s sold millions of albums worldwide. In addition to King, he’s played alongside Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, Warren Haynes, Derek Trucks and a long list of other rock luminaries. And he’s been able to pack prestigious venues from the Royal Albert Hall in London to the Beacon Theatre and Carnegie Hall in New York to Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado to the Sydney Opera House in Australia (where Bonamassa’s most recent release was recorded live).
“Hundreds of thousands of people like what I do every year,” Bonamassa says. “And I move on from the people who are negative about it.”
Perhaps more remarkably, Bonamassa has been able to do virtually all of that as an independent artist, under the banner of J&R Adventures, a management company and record label founded by Bonamassa and his manager Roy Weisman.
“I never listened to the major labels,” Bonamassa says. “I have a hard time taking advice from people who don’t have a quantitative, vested interest in your career. Because everybody likes to sit in their office and act like they’re smart; and when it doesn’t work out, they act like it’s your fault. And I’m not going to buy it. At the end of the day, you have to take fiduciary and overall responsibility for your own career, or else you don’t survive.”
Since he’s on his own label, Bonamassa can also release albums whenever he wants, and he wants to do that quite a bit. Between live albums, studio albums, collaborations with his side-band Black Country Communion and duo work with singer Beth Hart, Bonamassa has put out nearly 40 albums in the past two decades.
“Live At The Sydney Opera House,” which came out Oct. 25, documents an incendiary 2016 performance, with Bonamassa’s soulful voice and lethal guitar solos soaring over his red-hot, horn-spiked band, featuring former Stevie Ray Vaughan keyboardist Reese Wynans and former “Late Show with David Letterman” house band drummer Anton Fig.
Bonamassa has released more than a dozen live albums over the years, and he says the idea behind the releases is simple.
“There’s this collection of great venues I’ve played,” he says. “The Sydney Opera House most recently, but also Carnegie Hall, Beacon Theatre, the Royal Albert Hall and Red Rocks, and we’ve extrapolated this idea that, when we play these iconic venues, we should record the shows. Because you’re putting together a body of work.”
The live albums also give the audience a chance to soak in Bonamassa’s powerful stage presence. In his day-to-day life, the guitarist, who will perform Nov. 19 at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena, describes himself as a shy, introverted person. When he walks onstage, though, he says that something else takes over.
“The thing is, when I get out there, a certain element of my personality kicks in, and I’m The Other Guy,” he says. “At 7:30, that guy comes out, and he’s put away at 10:15. He’s a completely different part of my personality. I put on the suit, and I go out there with bad intentions; I play with bad intentions. Because that’s what the audience wants; part of being a showman is understanding what your audience wants and delivering it to them.”
What: Joe Bonamassa
Where: Bon Secours Wellness Arena, 650 N. Academy St., Greenville
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 19
Info.: 864-241-3800, http://www.bonsecoursarena.com/