After the excitement and spectacle of the Ryman Auditorium run last weekend, Billy Strings delivered an instant classic to the 9,525 fans who showed up to sell out Red Rocks Amphitheatre on Friday. The concert marked his second of two shows at the famed Morrison, CO venue as part of his first headlining concerts there in front of a live audience.
The show began with a quintessential “Taking Water” opener, transitioning into “Ice Bridges”. Strings and his bandmates Billy Failing (banjo), Royal Masat (bass), and Jarrod Walker (mandolin) sauntered through the first set with “Hellbender”, followed by the first cover of the evening with Norman Blake‘s “Last Train From Poor Valley”.
Billy Strings – “Taking Water” > “Ice Bridges”, “Last Train From Poor Valley” (Norman Blake) – 5/13/22
It was then time to kick the show into gear with one of Billy’s growing number of hallmark songs, “Dust In A Baggie”. The mood turned to an eerie sheen with Leon Payne‘s “Psycho” before the ensemble pulled audiences back from the depths with “Heartbeat Of America”. Billy’s eulogy for the quarantine era has proven itself time and again as a reliable first set stomper, allowing for the most extensive jamming thus far in the evening.
Billy Strings – “Dust In A Baggie” – 5/13/22
[Video: Mike Amolsch]
A pairing of covers followed with Dan Fogelberg‘s “Along The Road”, transitioning into Roy Acuff‘s “Streamline Cannonball”. Billy carried his “Love & Regret” down to the river before Jimmie Skinner‘s “Doin’ My Time”. Following what was to this point a fairly straightforward first set, Strings gave audiences a taste of the improvisation that has carried him so far in the live music world with “Hide & Seek”. The set-closing vehicle reached deep out into space as Strings juxtaposed the acoustic elements of the first frame with the effects-laden jamming that was to follow in the second.
Billy Strings – “Doin’ My Time” (Jimmie Skinner) – 5/13/22
[Video: Tom Yaley]
Returning for set two, Strings dropped straight into the action with “Red Daisy” ahead of a pairing of “Thirst Mutilator” and “Running”. The forlorn lament of “Show Me The Door” came next prior to a tribute to Colorado’s own The String Cheese Incident with “Black Clouds”. The song opened up into some extensive improv, with Billy Failing sounding like he was going to burst right through his banjo.
Billy Strings – “Red Daisy”, “Thirst Mutilator” > “Running”, Show Me The Door”, “Black Clouds” (The String Cheese Incident) – 5/13/22
Billy Strings – “Black Clouds” (The String Cheese Incident), “Home”, “One Tin Soldier” (Dennis Lambert & Brian Potter)”, “Wild Horses” (The Rolling Stones), “How Mountain Girls Can Love” (The Stanley Brothers & The Clinch Mountain Boys) – 5/13/22
[Video: Christopher Adams]
Billy’s career retrospective continued with the title track to his 2020 Grammy-winning album, Home. The first “One Tin Soldier” of 2022 came next, followed by an “Everything’s The Same” where Strings dutifully altered the opening line to “I’m going to Red Rocks, I’m going to Maine” to thunderous applause.
The second set wound down with Keith Allison and Mark Lindsay‘s “Freeborn Man” before the climax of the evening arrived with the improvisational highlight “Meet Me At The Creek”. The 14-minute telling encapsulated everything that brought Billy to the exalted stage, blending his songwriting prowess alongside his and his bandmates’ incredible live abilities. The song put a cap on a second set where the jams made up for their scarcity with their sheer intensity.
Billy Strings – “Meet Me At The Creek” – 5/13/22
[Video: Ben Wilson]
Taking the Red Rocks stage one last time—for now—Strings and company delivered their unique arrangement of The Rolling Stones‘ “Wild Horses”. With time on the clock for one more, the choice was obvious as The Stanley Brothers and The Clinch Mountain Boys‘ “How Mountain Girls Can Love” delivered a fond farewell to the mountain town.
Billy Strings – “How Mountain Girls Can Love” (The Stanley Brothers & The Clinch Mountain Boys) – 5/13/22
Billy Strings isn’t done with the Denver area just yet, with a show tonight, May 14th at Mission Ballroom. For tickets and a full list of tour dates visit his website. Full-show audio of Friday’s show is available thanks to taper CorFit Chris.
Billy Strings – Red Rocks Amphitheatre – Morrison, CO – 5/13/22
Setlist [via BillyBase]: Billy Strings | Red Rocks Amphitheatre | Morrison, CO | 5/13/22
Set One: Taking Water > Ice Bridges, Hellbender, Last Train From Poor Valley (Norman Blake), Dust In A Baggie, Psycho (Leon Payne), Heartbeat Of America, Along The Road (Dan Fogelberg) > Streamline Cannonball (Roy Acuff), Love & Regret, Doin’ My Time (Jimmie Skinner), Hide & Seek
Set Two: Red Daisy, Thirst Mutilator > Running, Show Me The Door, Black Clouds (The String Cheese Incident), Home, One Tin Soldier (Dennis Lambert & Brian Potter), Everything’s The Same, This Old World, Freeborn Man (Keith Allison & Mark Lindsay), Meet Me At The Creek
Encore: Wild Horses (The Rolling Stones) > How Mountain Girls Can Love (The Stanley Brothers & The Clinch Mountain Boys)