The Lord of the Strings continued his quest on Sunday as Billy Strings returned to the Arena for the penultimate show of his 2022 Halloween run. The second of three Away From The Shire-themed concerts retold the second installment in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Two Towers, as Billy Baggins employed the use of special guests, well-placed covers, and more to bring J.R.R. Tolkien‘s epic to the stage.

In contrast to Saturday night’s spectacle, Sunday’s show relied less on explicit plot development and theatrics and instead let the music do the talking. Over the course of 27 songs, ten of them originals, Frodo Baggins (Strings) and Samwise Gamgee (Jarrod Walker) forged the path to Mordor to destroy the One Ring with the duplicitous Gollum (Rushad Eggleston) leading the way.

Utilizing Howard Shore‘s opening theme “Foundations Of Stone”, Frodo was forced to “Watch It Fall” as he saw Gandald the Grey (Royal Masat) plunge to his fiery demise in his “Long Forgotten Dream”. Once awakened, the journey through Middle Earth continued with a pairing of “Running” and “Running The Route”. Though not canonically aligned with the source material, Bilbo Baggins (Jon Stickley) made a welcome appearance as our heroes found themselves “Home From The Forest”, a tribute to Gordon Lightfoot.

Night two upped the ante on special guest appearances, with the Jon Stickley Trio bandleader and Asheville local joining an ensemble cast that also included the fiddler Legolas (Alex Hargreaves), cello-playing Gollum, flute-equipped elf (Anh Phung), and fellow fiddle-playing Hobbit (Tatiana Hargreaves). The wealth of instrumentation on stage gave the band an exceptionally rich sound as the lumbering musical vessel weaved through layered instrumental improvisation with ease.

Related: 5 Of Our Favorite Themed Halloween Sets From The Last 5 Years [Videos/Audio]

Though they weren’t present onstage, Merry and Pippin’s journey through the forest to meet the Ents was personified with the debut of Pearl Jam‘s “In My Tree”, one of several well-placed covers that struck the perfect balance of plot relevance and musical excitement. Never one to shy away from altering his lyrics to suit his environment, Billy beckoned the crowd to “Show me Mordor, or show me something more” as Théoden’s citizens braced for impact at The Hornburg at Helm’s Deep with “You Must Come In At The Door” before a galloping “Tennessee Stud” closed act one.

When the story resumed for a marathon second set, Gandalf was noticeably missing from the cast. Ignoring his absence, Billy Baggins’s corruption from the morally compromised Gollum worsened as the being formerly known as Sméagol led the arena in a singalong of “I Peed On A Bird”, an Eggleston original. Following the bluesy, sophomoric romp, a massive plume of smoke heralded the great wizard’s return as Gandalf the White. Armed with a shimmering new metallic bass, Gandalf the White took the band through The Moody Blues‘ “Nights In White Satin”.

Though we had just crossed the halfway point of the run and the trilogy, Aragorn (Billy Failing) reminded us there were still “So Many Miles” still left to go. That said, Billy still took time out of his journey for some “Fishing” with the recently debuted Widespread Panic cover.

The show began a climactic crescendo as the battle of Helm’s Deep neared, the intensity of John Hartford‘s “All Fall Down” raising the suspense as Billy bellowed, “The orcs are coming / The orcs are coming / The orcs are coming / And they all fall down.” With help from Gollum, the protagonists braced for “Wargasm” as a fleet of orcs began launching projectile balloons into the crowd with a catapult. The pageantry of the evening was in full effect as a palette of firey-colored balloons dropped from the ceiling, a nightly occurrence at a Billy Strings Halloween run.

The unfettered chaos of “Wargasm” eventually ceased as Johnny Cash‘s “Big River” brought with it a wave of relief. The following fan-requested “In The Morning Light” furthered the tranquility before the Arena became a roaring vessel with the sold-out crowd belting along with the set-closing “Taking Water”.

Rather than leaving the stage for an encore, Strings stood and basked in the thunderous applause that rained down on him from the 7,000-some-odd costumed fans. Frodo welcomed back his cousin Bilbo for a friendly guitar duel, with the younger hobbit playing circles around the 111-year-old former bearer of the ring. Joined once again by the extended cast of characters including the flutist elf, Gollum, and fiddler Hobbit, their leader Billy Baggins left the arena a “Freeborn Man” to close the book on The Two Towers.

Billy Strings returns to the Arena tonight, October 31st, to conclude his telling of The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Billy Strings – “Foundations Of Stone” (Howard Shore), “Watch It Fall” [Pro-Shot] – 10/30/22

Billy Strings – “Home From The Forest” (Gordon Lightfoot) – 10/30/22

[Video: Doug Heck]

Billy Strings – “In My Tree” (Pearl Jam) – 10/30/22

[Video: Doug Heck]

Billy Strings – “I Peed On A Bird” (Rushad Eggleston) – 10/30/22

[Video: Doug Heck]

Billy Strings – “Nights In White Satin” (The Moody Blues) – 10/30/22

[Video: Doug Heck]

Billy Strings – “All Fall Down” (John Hartford) – 10/30/22

[Video: Doug Heck]

Billy Strings – “Freeborn Man” (Keith Allison) – 10/30/22

[Video: Doug Heck]

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Setlist: Billy Strings | Arena | Asheville, NC | 10/30/22

Set One: Foundations Of Stone [1], Watch It Fall, Long Forgotten Dream, Running > Running The Route, This Old World, Home From The Forrest [2] [3], Black Mountain Rag [2], In My Tree [4] [5], Down In The Swamp [5] [6] [7], Show Me The Door [7] [8], You Must Come In At The Door [7], Tennessee Stud

Set Two: Feast Here Tonight, I Peed On A Bird [5] [7], Nights In White Satin [9], Theme of Ronan, So Many Miles [10], Fishing [7], There Is A Time [5], All Fall Down [5] [7], Bonaparte’s Retreat [5] [6] [7] [11], Wargasm [7], Big River, In The Morning Light, Taking Water

Encore: Freeborn Man [2] [5] [6] [7]

[1] FTP
[2] With Jon Stickley as Bilbo Baggins on guitar
[3] FTP- Gordon Lightfoot
[4] FTP- Pearl Jam
[5] With Anh Phung on flute
[6] With Tatiana Hargreaves on fiddle
[7] With Rushad Eggleston (Gollum) on cello
[8] “Show Me Mordor”
[9] Gandalf the White (Royal) triumphantly returns to stage!
[10] Billy Failing on lead vocals
[11] FTP- Traditional