Billy Strings turned in a marathon performance at Denver’s Mission Ballroom on Saturday to close out his weekend in Colorado. The performance came after the bluegrass picker staged two sold-out nights at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, his first shows at the famed Morrison venue before a live audience.
Saturday’s program witnessed Billy and his bandmates Billy Failing (banjo), Jarrod Walker (mandolin), and Royal Masat (bass) deliver a cover-heavy performance that totaled 27 songs by evening’s end. The show began on an original note, however, with “Know It All”, the lead track from Strings’ Grammy-nominated 2021 album, Renewal.
“Know It All” bled into the traditional “Little Maggie” for the first of many covers of the evening. Mitch Jayne and Rodney Dillard‘s “There Is A Time” followed as Saturday’s concert took on a more traditional format favored at many Sunday shows. Strings then offered a tribute to his late inspiration Jeff Austin with a fiery “Run Down”.
A pairing of “Unwanted Love” and “New Campton Races” came next, before Billy thought of home with “Tennessee Stud”. A double dose of Bill Monroe followed with “The Gold Rush” into “Blue Eyed Darling”, as Strings continued his tribute to the pillars of bluegrass with Tony Rice‘s “Tipper”. After what to this point was a tightly-played first set of traditional-leaning mountain music, Billy and his bandmates let out a bit of line on “So Many Miles”. Billy Failing’s traveling composition wound its way down the tracks for an expansive 14-minute telling to close out the first frame.
Returning for the second set, Billy explored his own songbook with takes on “Love Like Me” and an expectedly spacey bout of “Highway Hypnosis”. Next, Turmoil & Tinfoil‘s “On The Line” bled into the traditional “Train 45” ahead of Billy’s ecological contemplation “Watch It Fall”.
Strings and company opted to “Hold That Woodpile Down” ahead of “Hollow Heart” and Jackson Browne‘s “Running On Empty”, marking the latter cover’s first appearance in 2022. Billy hollered his way through “Doin’ Things Right” into an explosively upbeat jam before easing back on the throttle to push it toward the ten-minute mark.
Carter Stanley‘s “Nobody’s Love Is Like Mine” came next ahead of “Nothings Working” and one last tribute to Bill Monroe with “Shenandoah Breakdown”. A sentimental run through “Must Be Seven” emerged on the other side into “Thunder”. Billy’s composition set to Robert Hunter‘s lyrics delivered the evening’s final fireworks, as Strings and his bandmates prefaced the Grateful Dead lyricist’s immortal words with eight minutes of interstellar improvisation. The song’s descending riff sent the band off for an encore break, taking the Mission stage one more time for Don Robertston‘s “Born To Be With You” around a single microphone.
Billy Strings is off the road until June 15th when he kicks off his summer tour in Dayton, OH. For tickets and a full list of tour dates visit his website. He recently confirmed the return of his two-day Renewal mini-festival to Buena Vista, CO on September 23rd and 24th. Full-show audio of Saturday’s concert is available thanks to taper CorFit Chris, with a collection of fan-shot videos from Tom Yaley.
Billy Strings – “Little Maggie” (Traditional) – 5/14/22
Billy Strings – “Run Down” (Jeff Austin) – 5/14/22
Billy Strings – “Highway Hypnosis” – 5/14/22
Billy Strings – “Doin’ Things Right” – 5/14/22
Billy Strings – “Shenandoah Breakdown” (Bill Monroe) – 5/14/22
Billy Strings – “Thunder” (Robert Hunter) – 5/14/22
Billy Strings – “Born To Be With You” (Don Robertston) – 5/14/22
Billy Strings – Mission Ballroom – Denver, CO – 5/14/22
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Setlist: Billy Strings | Mission Ballroom | Denver, CO | 5/14/22
Set One: Know It All > Little Maggie (Traditional), There Is A Time (Mitch Jayne, Rodney Dillard), Run Down (Jeff Austin), Unwanted Love (Reno & Smiley and The Gang) > New Camptown Races (Frank Wakefield), Tennessee Stud (Jimmie Driftwood), The Gold Rush (Bill Monroe)  > My Sweet Blue Eyed Darling (Bill Monroe), All Of Tomorrow, Tipper (Tony Rice), So Many Miles
Set Two: Love Like Me, Highway Hypnosis, On The Line > Train 45 (Traditional), Watch It Fall, Hold That Woodpile Down (Dave Braham, Edward Harrigan), Hollow Heart, Running On Empty (Jackson Browne), Doin’ Things Right, Nobody’s Love Is Like Mine (Carter Stanley), Nothing’s Working, Shenandoah Breakdown (Bill Monroe), Must Be Seven > Thunder (Robert Hunter)
Encore: Born To Be With You (Don Robertson) 
 Third Stone from the Sun tease
 Single mic