Last year when COVID-19 put the live touring industry on hold, guitar hero Joe Bonamassa put together a one-night-only show at the iconic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, TN to be livestreamed for fans everywhere. That night he united people across 44 countries worldwide for a l live music presentation of his new album Royal Tea before it was even released.
The concert has since been remixed and mastered for physical release as Now Serving: Royal Tea Live From The Rymanon June 11th and will be available to own on CD, DVD, Blu-Ray and Double LP. The DVD will include a film introduction narrated by actor Jeff Daniels.
The performance includes 12 incredible live tracks, featuring the best from his latest studio release Royal Tea, that was recorded at Abbey Road Studios in London, and was his 24th #1 record on the Billboard Blues chart. It also includes three tracks from his 20th anniversary album A New Day Now plus covers of classic songs by Rory Gallagher, Free and Yes!
Recalling that night, Bonamassa said, “I have always wanted to film a show at the legendary Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. Our band has had the honour of playing there now 8½ times over the past 10 years. The audience is always alive and electric, hanging on every word and phrase. It feels like the greatest, most intimate gig you will ever do but there are 2,300 people sharing this joy and musical journey. I love the place as it is a national treasure and selfishly close to my house. Here’s where I get to the half part. We missed you. As great as it is to be on that stage in any capacity, You the fans make it special. You are part of the show and a big part of it. As this show was being filmed live, almost 100,000 eyes were on us in various forms around the world in front of TVs and computers alike. But you were not in the room with us.”
In normal times, the venue typically seats 2,300, but for one night only, the real crowd was the size of a major stadium, and in-house nearly every seat was filled with a custom cardboard cut-out of a fan. The event sold over 17,000 tickets, reaching a global audience and bringing people of all different cultures together during a time when it often felt like the world was falling apart. Considering the number of households watching concerts together from home, one ticket could actually account for an entire family, so the true number of viewers would likely skyrocket.
“We played as good as we could in front of those 1700 cardboard cut outs of your faces and tried to imagine you there,” Bonamassa continued. “For split seconds I would catch a glimpse of the room and it almost felt normal. Then the song would end and there would be dead silence. Only the footsteps of our crew could be heard. With all of that said, this DVD is a snapshot of a concert performance within the confines a vast sea change of the world. A world that had temporarily deemed us unnecessary. Nobody knows when I will ever get back to this stage in front of a full house again, but I sure do know that I do love it and miss you greatly. This show counts as a half.”
The night at the Rymans should also be celebrated as an event that brought the music industry together. Between ticket sales and donations during his After Party Showcase, the event raised $32,000 for Bonamassa’s Fueling Musicians programme, presented by his non-profit Keeping the Blues Alive Foundation (KTBA). Supporting artists for over a year amid the pandemic, to date the programme has secured $460,000 in funding for qualifying touring musicians who are suffering financial hardship since their careers have been put on hold.
The program provides immediate $1,500 cash payments for essential living expenses to help musicians stay afloat until they can get back out on the road. This past weekend Joe hosted his 2nd Annual Stream-A-Thon event, featuring over 35 stunning performances and 3+ hours of music to continue raising money for the cause. The event featured a star-studded line-up including Bonamassa, Toto, Dion, Ana Popovic, Warren Haynes, Bobby Rush, Jared James Nichols, Emily Wolfe and many more.
As for the set list for Now Serving: Royal Tea Live From The Ryman, Bonamassa has made something of a career out of taking risks and venturing into uncharted territory. Tracks featured will be:‘When One Door Opens’, ‘Royal Tea’, ‘High Class Girl’, ‘Lookout Man!’, ‘Why Does It Take So Long To Say Goodbye’, ‘A Conversation With Alice’, ‘I Didn’t Think She Would Do It’, ‘Beyond The Silence’, ‘Lonely Boy’, ‘Cradle Rock’, ‘Walk In My Shadow’ and ‘A New Day Yesterday’/’Starship Trooper’ – ‘Wurm’.
To pre-order the album on CD, double clear vinyl, DVD or Blu-ray, click here.