Joe Bonamassa Shares Why He Doesn’t Want To Play Arenas Unlike Eric Clapton

Joe Bonamassa recently joined Guitar Player for an interview and revealed his reason for not playing in arenas, unlike his contemporary Eric Clapton.

One of the most influential guitarists of all time, Eric Clapton, has been delighting the fans’ ears with numerous live performances for years. Clapton visited many essential venues and arenas during his music career, including Wembley Arena, Ahoy Arena, O2 Arena, and Madison Square Garden.

Playing at arenas and filling stadiums means a lot for a musician. Especially after the Beatles and Beatlemania craze, artists began trying to influence a more extensive crowd with newer music material that focused on impressing larger audiences. So, filling such a prominent place meant they responded to the needs of mass audiences.

In a recent interview with Guitar Player, Joe Bonamassa recalled playing at New York’s Beacon Theatre and Radio City Music Hall. He said he likes playing at the Beacon, but Madison Square Garden isn’t among his plans. The musician noted that he knows how to perform in front of 3,000 people, but bigger places require more production.

Bonamassa stated that Bono and Mick Jagger have performed in arenas throughout their career, but it’s not for him. He then mentioned Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck, saying they developed their acts. However, Bonamassa said he likes interacting with a small crowd and the sound he gets in a theater.

In the interview, Guitar Player asked Joe Bonamassa the following:

“You’ve played multiple nights at New York’s Beacon Theatre and Radio City Music Hall. You’re probably at the point where you could do a night at the Garden and sell it out.”

Ten, Bonamassa responded:

“Nah. I like the Beacon. I know it sounds weird, but the Garden isn’t on my bucket list. I have an apartment in New York that I rented because of its proximity to the Beacon. And my condo in Nashville is close to the Ryman. I like to walk to work. Now, we do two nights or three nights at the Ryman, so maybe we could sell 9,000 or 10,000 seats at the Bridgestone Arena. But it’s not the Ryman, where I’m comfortable.

I know what to do in front of 3,000 people. When you do bigger places, it requires a level of production that takes some of the closeness away. You have to bring in screens and all that. There are people like Bono and Mick Jagger who have lived their entire careers in arenas, and they can make those places feel like 200-seat clubs. I’m not that guy.

Guitar Player then asked:

“But what about guitarists like Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck? They’ve played arenas for years.”

The guitar player said:

“Yeah, but they’ve also developed their acts. I just like theaters. I can interact with the crowd better in that kind of space. And listen, you can make plenty of money in a theater. I want to have a good experience, and I want my fans to feel the same way. Arenas can get cavernous, and the sound gets wonky. You have to spend a lot of money to try to recreate the vibe of a theater in an arena.”

So, Joe Bonamassa said he is content with his current audience. Unlike many musicians, including Eric Clapton, Bonamassa has no intention of impressing a larger audience during his live performances, not even for a sell-out live show at Madson Square Garden.