On Friday, December 8th, The Del McCoury Band kicked off their tour-closing two-night run at Denver’s Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom. The energy in the room was especially amplified considering this tour marked Del’s longest in almost twenty years.
Local act Meadow Mountain kicked off the night with rowdy boot-stomping originals played with the traditional bluegrass lineup of mandolin, banjo, fiddle, guitar, and bass. The Denver boys invited incredibly talented vocalist Grace Clark to join them for a number of their songs including “Careless Heart”, with her added vocals tying the band’s sound together beautifully. Banjo player Sam Armstrong humbly expressed how “uncomfortably excited” he was to be opening for the legendary Del McCoury, and Meadow Mountain proved themselves to be deserving of such an honor.
The Del McCoury Band took the stage promptly at 10 pm in front of a packed house, opening their set with a crowd-pleasing new original as they often do. Next up was “Count Me Out”, a tale of love gone awry from 2007’s Del And The Boys, which featured Del, mandolin player Ronnie McCoury, and fiddle player Jason Carter harmonizing around the center mic. Del then graciously thanked the enthusiastic audience, expressing how happy he and his band were to be finishing their tour in Denver. A fiery instrumental followed, with the five musicians trading off runs, before Ronnie took lead vocals on the next number, slowing things down a bit with a sweet love song, while Del left the stage to change a broken string.
In classic good humor, Del returned with a joke about that D-string having been on his guitar since the 1930s before launching into another rousing instrumental. Staple “Nashville Cats” featured the quintet all harmonizing around the center mic in classic bluegrass form, inspiring a whole crowd singalong which prompted Del to remark that the crowd “was in tune and everything!” Del then opened the show up to requests, saying that while they had lots of good murder ballads to sing, they were slacking on love songs. The band then played the influential Del original “Beauty of My Dreams” and a quick and lively “Ashville Turnaround”, which gave bassist Alan Bartram a chance to showcase his skills.
After briefly scanning the crowd for requests, Del dedicated “Hey, Hey Bartender” to the Cervantes’ bar staff and played an incredible rendition that had Del impressively hitting the upper register of his voice. Jason Carter then debuted an original of his own before slowing things down with the old song “Learnin’ the Blues”. Appropriately for this point in the evening, the band launched into “Don’t Stop the Music”, which flowed into a roaring instrumental before again slowing the set down with “Blue Darlin’”.
A major highlight of the night was Del introducing his grandson and Ronnie’s son Evan McCoury, who sat in on guitar for the remainder of the set, making for a heartwarming multigenerational bluegrass performance. Jerry Lee Lewis original “What Made Milwaukee Famous” flowed into a ripping instrumental with Ronnie and Evan trading off blisteringly quick solos. With time for one more number, Del beckoned the crowd to sing along, strumming the opening chord and giving the crowd the lyrics to the chorus as he closed his set with “I Need More Time”. With that, Del concluded his ninety-minute set giving the stage to his band, The Travelin’ McCourys, who kept the bluegrass going late into the evening.
Setlist: Del McCoury Band | Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom | Denver, CO | 12/8/2017
Set: New Song, Count Me Out, Instrumental, New Song, Instrumental, Nashville Cats, Beauty of My Dreams, Ashville Turnaround, Hey Hey Bartender, New Song, Learnin’ the Blues, Don’t Stop the Music, Blue Darlin’, What Made Milwaukee Famous, Instrumental, I Need More Time