Blues guitar star Joe Bonamassa performed for at least seven times the capacity of the legendary Ryman Saturday, raising more than $32,000 along the way. While the in-person “crowd” consisted of custom cardboard cutouts dotting the 2,300 seat auditorium, more than 17,000 users from 44 countries paid to watch the gig live.
Proceeds from the show went to the Fueling Musicians program, founded by Bonamassa earlier this year. The fund was established to aid musicians struggling to pay bills during the forced shutdown of live events due to the pandemic. Artists can apply for cash grants of $1,000 and $500 gift cards good towards gas on his website. “I remember when I was in NYC trying to deadhead from (New York) to Tulsa and didn’t have enough money for a hotel room for my little band and gasoline to get there,” Bonamassa said. “So it’s something we’ve done … because I understand the financial pressure on a group.”
Tickets to the Ryman show – what he referred to as making it “7.5” times performing there due to the lack of live audience this time – went for $35. They include admission to the virtual concert through September 27, as well as a digital download of his Royal Tea album coming in October, and one year of access to an on-demand service featuring numerous live performances on his website. The performance featured him playing the new album in its entirety, with additional fan favorites from his deep catalog.
“I usually cherry pick,” Bonamassa said about his set list. “If I don’t get to ‘Sloe Gin’ by at least the first hour and 15 minutes, there’s gonna be a revolt.”
He added, “Without an audience, there’s gonna be no revolt. I hope people enjoy the record … as a piece of work.”