Joe Bonamassa plays Royal Tea Live and the cardboard cut-outs go wild

Out now: Joe Bonamassa's Royal Tea: Live From The Ryman proves Royal Tea was a good album, even without a real-life audience

Joe Bonamassa: Now Serving - Royal Tea Live From The Ryman
(Image: © Provogue)

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Some people have accused Joe Bonamassa of releasing too many albums. More likely he’s just satisfying his fan base and saving them the bother of searching out dodgy bootlegs. Like this one, maybe. 

Frustrated that he was unable to tour last year’s Royal Tea album, he set up a gig at Nashville’s legendary Ryman Auditorium, installed a load of cardboard cut-outs where the audience should be, and proceeded to rip through the album, mostly in sequence, starting with the epic When One Door Opens but missing out the final Savannah for some reason.

A hardened road hog, Bonamassa has no problem spicing up the tracks live for the cardboard audience, confirming that Royal Tea is one of his better albums in recent years. 

For the encore he revives Rory Gallagher’s Cradle Rock and Jethro Tull’s A New Day Yesterday, tacking on a slab of Yes’s Starship Trooper for good measure. And the cardboard cut-outs respond enthusiastically after every song – until the last.

Hugh Fielder

Hugh Fielder has been writing about music for 47 years. Actually 58 if you include the essay he wrote about the Rolling Stones in exchange for taking time off school to see them at the Ipswich Gaumont in 1964. He was news editor of Sounds magazine from 1975 to 1992 and editor of Tower Records Top magazine from 1992 to 2001. Since then he has been freelance. He has interviewed the great, the good and the not so good and written books about some of them. His favourite possession is a piece of columnar basalt he brought back from Iceland.