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L.A.’s Greek Theater reopening to celebrate its belated 90th birthday with Joe Bonamassa

Two decades ago, blues guitarist and singer-songwriter Joe Bonamassa was a struggling musician, cooped up in his apartment near the corner of Los Feliz Boulevard and Vermont Avenue, watching the tour buses of rock bands rumble by on their way up to perform at the Greek Theatre.

While the Greek has remained iconic, other things do change: Bonamassa is now headlining the venue on Sunday, Aug. 1 as it kicks off its 2021 season and celebrates its postponed 90th anniversary.

Related: The Greek Theatre reopening: Check out the performers scheduled to play the LA venue

“My career wasn’t in a place where the Greek was on the table, but I was like, ‘Man, I’m going to be one of those guys someday,’” Bonamassa said, recalling his early years during a recent phone interview. He’s gone on to play the venue several times and even filmed his Grammy-nominated live CD/DVD, “Joe Bonamassa: Live at The Greek Theatre,” there during a 2015 concert. Some of the footage from that performance can also be seen in “Guitar Man,” a documentary from last year that chronicles the life and career of Bonamassa.

“I remember playing my guitar too loudly and getting the broomstick to the ceiling in the apartment, like, ‘Hey, shut that off!’” he recalled. “But now, when I stand on that stage, just a half a mile away, I’m unleashing four guitar amplifiers as loudly as I want into the hills, so that’s pretty cool.”

Promoters at the Greek were primed and ready to commemorate the 90th season in 2020, but the coronavirus global pandemic sidelined the festivities. It’s one of the area’s most beloved outdoor concert venues and has hosted evenings with artists like Aretha Franklin, Frank Sinatra, Elton John, Ringo Starr, Carlos Santana, Bruce Springsteen and Neil Diamond. Even now, contemporary superstars are making stops at the Greek a priority on their national tours, including acts like Billie Eilish, Maroon 5, Chris Stapleton, Luke Combs, Kacey Musgraves, Harry Styles and Haim.

It’s the intimacy and ambiance of the 5,900-capacity amphitheater that keeps even the biggest names in the industry returning year after year, AP Diaz, executive officer of the Los Angeles Department of Recreation & Parks, which operates the city-owned venue, said during a recent phone interview.

“When you’re at the Greek, you can’t see any city lights, you don’t see a single building, you’re just surrounded by trees and stars,” he said. “There’s just something magical about that, especially in L.A. with so many freeways and people. You’re seeing a show outdoors and there’s no competing noise, the acoustics are really well-positioned on that hill and the stage was designed well.”

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