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Greensky Bluegrass Welcomes Billy Strings, Tears Up NYC [Photos]

first_imgLoad remaining images Friday night saw the Greensky Bluegrass and Billy Strings’ tour land in New York City after a week that also saw “casual Weggendsday” stop in Albany and a gig in Boston. Already this year, the traveling circus of progressive bluegrass maestros has managed gigs in Colorado, Tennessee, and Indiana, and they don’t seem to be showing any signs of stopping. As GSBG has really broken through into being able to sell out larger venues in recent years, it seems they’re taking a lesson from the band that they all met following, Phish, and are committed to squeezing as many shows into a tour as is humanly possible, and hopscotching around the country to make it happen.Fans arriving early got the treat of watching Billy Strings picking on some originals. While the Billy Strings show is necessarily hamstrung by his dearth of overall material to work with, the brief early set gave fans a sense of just how hot his licks can get, and the potential that that band really has, with a mandolin player who can rip the same 128th notes right in tune with Billy. With Playstation Theater’s back seats closed off, the more intimate space really gave fans a sense of being close to the action, more reminiscent of a mountain town bar than Times Square’s lavish basement venue.At around 9:20, Greensky Bluegrass hit the stage and came out of the gates roaring with ‘Burn Them,’ a real party-starter of a number that heated up the crowd. After showing off their barn-burning chops, the group settled in and put some of their more composed songwriting chops on display with ‘Worried Man.’Next up was ‘Living Over,’ featuring what was probably the first proper jam of the night, as Paul Hoffman stretched out a mandolin solo before nodding over to Anders Beck on dobro to take over the lead. Beck’s yearning, exploratory tone at the outset played itself out with gusto, developing into quicker and quicker loops with his licks seeming to chase themselves around the rabbit hole, before finally returning to the song’s chorus, the same lyrics they were singing as they rang in 2018 just a little less than a month ago now. A slowdown was in order after the revelation that was ‘Living Over,’ and the more conventionally bluegrass number ‘Room Without A Roof’ fit the bill. With barely a pause following the ballad, the defining banjo riff of ‘Just To Lie’ rang out from Michael Arlen Bont and the group launched into the set’s real meat.The song’s early solo ended and bled into its more improvisational section as it came back to the lyrics, “I told you that I loved you, just so I could lie beside you,” before repeating the lyric “I told you,” with an echoing reverb. This section almost seemed like trance-fusion, as the group played with the pulsating rhythm of the open space in the song instead of letting the intergalactic jam drift—though, Greensky snapped the fans back into their surroundings with the first verse of ‘Hold On,’ whose “shouted, written down, and quoted” lyric resonates enough that the group named a whole album after it. With a smoking banjo solo there, the band pressed their segue further into The Louvin Brothers’ ‘Great Atomic Power,’ whose lyrics they changed from “for your soul will fly to safety and eternal peace and rest” to “enjoy life’s pleasures like drugs and sex.” That more rock ‘n’ roll lyric got a great reaction from the crowd, as the band finally found their way to the end of a wild ride.After a minute of conferring, the band simmered the crowd down from that rolling boil with the heartwarming singalong ‘Tied Down,’ and then inviting Billy Strings to join them onstage for a pair of tunes. The first was ‘I’d Probably Kill You,’ whose lyrics the group fudged to “I’d probably Bill you,” and “I’d burn your house down, if I somehow knew Billy Strings was in it,” giving the younger Billy a bit of good-natured ribbing from some older souls who are rightfully impressed with (and maybe a little envious of) the remarkable speed and dexterity that Billy brings to the stage. Next up of ‘Miss Maggie,’ which each band member got to take for a ride, and then a well-deserved setbreak.After the jump, the band returned with the same inspired lyricism that the crowd knows them for, coming out with ‘Just Listening’. Next up was ‘Train Junkie,’ whose far out and meandering mandolin intro spent a bit of time heating up by riffing on The Grateful Dead’s ‘The Other One’. ‘Wheel Hoss’ followed the high energy ‘Train Junkie’ as the band continued to demonstrate their ability to mix in traditional bluegrass standards with their own, less conventional bluegrass originals.As the band worked its way into the heart of the set, they brought the emotion in the room to a soaring peak with ‘Dustbowl Overtures’ and ‘Handle Me With Care,’ two songs that really demonstrate the band’s ability to summon the better angels of their audience’s nature and well up real feeling from every open ear in the house. After the band’s classic ‘200 Miles From Montana,’ they returned to the world of traditionals with ‘Hit Parade Of Love,’ first made famous by Jimmy Martin. Finally, the set closed with two of Greensky’s best-known originals, ‘Forget Everything’ and ‘Leap Year’.Watching them play songs like those, that they so obviously adore, it becomes clear to even the most casual fan that if this band wasn’t performing on a stage in New York City, they might just as well be picking on their own numbers in their Crazy Creeks at a Phish festival somewhere. There’s just such a radiant joy in every person on-stage, they really look like there’s nothing else in the world they’d rather be doing. Before sending their fans out into the cold, they gave them one last treat: Rayland Baxter’s ‘Yellow Eyes,’ a rarer cover whose use as an encore gave folks something to hum as they bundled up and headed for the subway, looking forward to another night of the same great music on Saturday.You can check out a gallery of photos below, courtesy of Andrew Scott Blackstein.Setlist: Greensky Bluegrass | PlayStation Theater | New York, NY | 1/26/2018Set One: Burn Them (1), Worried Man, Living Over, Room without a Roof, Just to Lie > Hold On > Great Atomic Power, Tied Down, I’d Probably Kill You (2), Little Maggie (2)Set Two: Just Listening, Train Junkie (3), Wheel Hoss (4), Dustbowl Overtures, Handle with Care, 200 Miles from Montana, Hit Parade of Love, Forget Everything, Leap Year Encore: Yellow Eyes(1) w/ Guido Batista & Luke Milanese (tambourine)(2) – w/ Billy Strings(3) – Other One tease(4) – Macarena dance by PaulGreensky Bluegrass | PlayStation Theater | New York, NY | 1/26/2018 | Photo: Andrew Scott Blacksteinlast_img read more