Billy Strings went over the rainbow for one more night at the ExploreAsheville.com Arena on Sunday, closing out his three-night Halloween run. The exciting conclusion of his The Wizard of Oz-themed run saw him finish Dorothy’s story with covers of the Rolling Stones, Grateful Dead, The Doors, Elton John, and more.
The cinematic dualities that have defined Billy’s Halloween run continued on Sunday, however, his show-opening debut of the Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” couldn’t have been further from the truth. The sing-along debut delivered exactly what the sold-out crowd needed, sending the arena roaring to start the show.
Billy Strings – “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” (Rolling Stones) – 10/31/21
Moving on through “Nothing’s Working”, the show caught fire early on with a first set “Meet Me at the Creek”. The lengthy telling would prove to be one of the improvisational highlights of the evening as Billy picked his momentum right back up from the previous evening. The Scarecrow’s loyal compatriots Billy Failing (banjo), Jarrod Walker (mandolin), and Royal Masat (bass) gave the guitarist all the space he needed to switch on his distortion pedal and instill the proper Halloween fear into the arena.
Throttling the energy back down, the quartet ran through Bill Monroe‘s “The First Whippoorwill” before arriving at “Samson & Delilah”. Halloween marked Billy’s first take on the traditional composition favored by the Grateful Dead during many of their Sunday shows. Just as the Rolling Stones opener, “Samson & Delilah” kept everyone singing along as lion imagery appeared onscreen.
The Blue Ridge Mountains were then warned of the mythical bear “Ole Slewfoot” before the eerie opening of “Wargasm” emanated from the stage. Billy descended the arena into a dark place as lightning flashed on the massive LED screen that spanned the width of the floor and rose nearly to the ceiling. As Dorothy and her three journeymen were terrorized by the flying monkeys at the behest of the wicked witch, Strings begged the question, “what’s the reason for this again?”
The evil jam found its way into the “March of the Winkies” chant the guards sing outside the Witch’s castle as the pounding rhythm set up a debut of The Doors’ “Five To One”. Billy sang only the first verse, warning us all “no one here gets out alive,” as we all risked life and limb sneaking into the Wicked Witch’s castle to rescue Dorothy. The gang then closed the “Wargasm” sandwich to end set two, leaving us all in suspense as to whether or not the Cowardly Lion (Masat), the Scarecrow (Strings), and the Tin Man (Walker) would rescue Dorothy (Failing) and get her home to Kansas.
Coming back out for set two, Strings and company opted for the tried and true opener of “Taking Water” before segueing into a hootin’ and hollerin’ “Doin’ Things Right”. As Dorothy and company entered the Emerald City, we were all reminded “we gotta stick together, baby.” Picking right back up on the momentum that has churned the steaming locomotive that is Billy Strings through the entire weekend, he followed that up with Hank Snow‘s “I’ll Remember You Love In My Prayers”.
Billy Strings – “Doin’ Things Right” – 10/31/21 – Partial
[Video: Chip Forte]
It wouldn’t be Halloween without a little grunge, arriving courtesy of Mother Love Bone‘s “Crown of Thorns”. The murky Seattle-soaked cover saw Billy truck straight on through into “This Heart of Mine” as the band continually rattled off songs for a second set that was light on jams, though heavy on sentimentality and plot development.
After the Tin Man got his heart, it was on to Emmitt-Nershi Band‘s “New Country Blues” as Dorothy thought of her home. The Wizard granted her wish and agreed to take her home, but first, it was time to say goodbye with the Grateful Dead’s “Brokedown Palace”. I think I’ll miss you most of all, Billy.
With not one dry eye in the house as imagery of hot air balloons flew away onscreen, the band began its “Long Journey Home” with the Bill Monroe cover. Returning back to Kansas, the only logical thing to do was play the title track to Billy’s Grammy-winning 2019 album, Home. Though Dorothy was happy to be back at home, the eerie nature of the track suggests an uneasiness that maybe she never left in the first place as the band took their bows and left the stage.
Coming back to the ExploreAsheville.com Arena stage one last time, Billy Strings set himself up for the slam dunk of encoring with a debut of Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”. As cannons shot smoke like that of a rushing Geiser, balloons the color of the Emerald City dropped from the ceiling as Billy Strings, Jarrod Walker, Royal Masat, and Billy Failing all bid us goodbye.
There’s no place like Home.
Billy Strings’ next show is on Wednesday at The Riverside Theater in Milwaukee, WI. For tickets and a full list of tour dates click here.
Setlist: Billy Strings | ExploreAsheville.com Arena | Asheville, NC | 10/31/21
Set One: You Can’t Always Get What You Want (Rolling Stones) , Nothing’s Working, Meet Me at the Creek, The First Whippoorwill (Bill Monroe), Samson & Delilah (traditional) , Ole Slewfoot (Johhny Horton), Wargasm > Five to One (The Doors)  > March of the Winkies (Harold Arlen) > Wargasm
Set Two: Taking Water > Doin’ Things Right , I’ll Remember You Love In My Prayers (Hank Snow), Crown of Thorns (Mother Love Bone) > This Heart of Mine , Love Like Me, New Country Blues (Emmitt-Nershi Band), Brokedown Palace (Grateful Dead), Long Journey Home (Bill Monroe), Home
Encore: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (Elton John) 
(1) FTP – Rolling Stones
(2) FTP – Traditional w/ Eye of the Tiger teases
(3) FTP – the Doors w/ S&D tease
(4) Use Me tease
(5) EFG Jam