Billy Strings simply couldn’t wait to get his third show of the spring tour—a sold-out stop at Enmarket Arena in Savannah, Georgia—going last night. With a pair of debuts, including a geo-specific nod to his host state, the bluegrass sensation wasted no time during this one-night layover en route to his highly anticipated St. Augustine, FL run this weekend.

Billy kept fans on their toes by coming out solo on a clawhammer five-string banjo for the night’s opener, a fitting “Georgia Buck”, as if every second counted. When he finished, the full band joined him, tuned up and ready. As a unit they launched into “The Fire On My Tongue”, which featured a fierce instrumental intro with a sparkling crisp and clean Jarrod Walker mandolin line while the always-stellar Alex Hargreaves fiddled a call-and-response trade-off that quickly turned into a twisting display of the quintet’s astounding musical dexterity when Strings finally entered into the jam, spiraling through the mix.

Billy Strings — “Georgia Buck” (The Hill Billies), “The Fire On My Tongue” [Pro-Shot] — 4/17/24

The layering and spacing these five men show, whether gathered around a single mic or doing their thing as a front line as they did on the follow-up instrumental “Bronzeback”, is both impressive and a testament to their obvious mutual trust. Given their rigorous touring schedule and ambitious show designs, how could they not innately trust each other? After an impressive tour opener and a wild “Trains & Animals” pair of themed sets for night two of this spring tour, Billy Strings and company keep setting the bar higher and higher each night. With each successive and successful show that trust becomes more and more ingrained in their collective muscle memory.

During the central break of the following “Seven Weeks in County”, Strings showed the fearless fretboard fireworks that catapulted him and his band into sold-out arenas. It was the first true highlight of the evening but it surely wasn’t the last.

Strings displayed a particularly menacing lyrical malice on “My Alice” that was seemingly at odds with the playful grin on his face. While tuning his thrashed guitar Billy chatted up the crowd with his usual mix of cheeky candor and humility. He sincerely thanked the crowd and the city of Savannah itself, and shouted out the local fishing and hospitality before turning to his stellar banjo-wielding bandmate, Billy Failing, to get the next number, “Ernest T. Grass” up and rolling.

“Grass” deliciously devolved into a fierce segue that eventually settled into a heartwarming take on “In The Morning Light”. That number amply displayed another of the many tools in Billy Strings’ shed: a remarkably wise-beyond-his-years sweetly distinct voice that can convey a wide array of emotions with an enviable ease. Not that the rest of the band isn’t more than capable of their own vocal displays, such as the multi-part harmonies they dropped in the later set highlight, Larry Sparks‘ “John Deere Tractor”. Bassist Royal Massat then showed off his rock-solid playing skills with his Earth-rumbling intro to “Heartbeat Of America” before he fell back into the soundscape and let his more melodic brethren go whole hog to close the set.

After the break, Billy was clearly still in his musical feels on the opening “Love Like Me” before entrancing the crowd with a distorted, haunting “Highway Hypnosis”. The wide-screen fireworks of “Wargasm” followed up, shaking the last vestiges of trancelike haze lingering in the wake of their mass “Hypnosis” from the deeply grooving fans.

After a speedy trip through the debut of The Stanley Brothers‘ “Going To Georgia” and a fun turn on lead vocals by Failing it was time to start the “So Many Miles” toward the encroaching finale. The mile-high energy was kept on the razor’s edge of the atmosphere for the “Everything’s The Same” that followed. Afterward, in an effort to keep the pot from boiling over, Billy took to a hastily erected single center mic and dropped a solo, mournful, and dirgelike debut of “Jesus Is Waiting For Me” by Larry Sparks on a reverently hushed and spellbound audience. As soon as he ended that gospel-tinged track, Strings was joined by the rest of the band for an old time-y, center mic four-part harmony pick on The Stanley Brothers’ ”Harbor of Love”.

Though the clock was loudly ticking for the band they were nowhere near ready to end the fun everyone involved was sharing. In fact, Strings and his merry band floored it, with Jackson Browne’s “Running On Empty” and its exhaustive energy giving way to a wild and wooly “Turmoil & Tinfoil”. A fittingly “everything-but-the-kitchen-sink” outro “Train 45” wrapped up the show in a nice, neat little bow. Clearly, there was an unbreakable 11 p.m. curfew that was behind the quick start and super short set break because at the stroke of the hour, Billy and his merry band were done and unplugged, with no time for an encore for the momentarily disappointed audience.

Strings and his band bowed as one, waved to the still-wanting crowd remorsefully, and exited to let their incredible crew get cracking on striking the stage and getting on down the line. With a full weekend of shows in St.Augustine’s spacious Amphitheater ahead of them the time crunch could be helpful in the long run but the band seemed as reluctant to leave the party as the crowd. But, just like life, even the best times must end. At least the smiles, memories, and echoes in their ears will serve as a reminder of how hard a five-piece bluegrass band just rocked their collective socks off.

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Setlist: Billy Strings | Enmarket Arena | Savannah, GA | 4.17.24

Set One: Georgia Buck (The Hill Billies) [1], The Fire On My Tongue > Bronzeback, Seven Weeks in County, My Alice, Ernest T.Grass (Sammy Shelor) > Must Be Seven, In The Morning Light, Sunny Side of the Mountain (Harry C. McAuliffe, Bobby Gregory) [2], John Deere Tractor (Lawrence Hammond), Heartbeat Of America

Set Two: Love Like Me, Highway Hypnosis, Wargasm > Going To Georgia (The Stanley Brothers) [3], So Many Miles [4], Jesus Is Waiting For Me (Larry Sparks) [5] [6], Harbor of Love (The Stanley Brothers) [7], Running On Empty (Jackson Brown), Turmoil & Tinfoil, Train 45 (Traditional)

[1] Billy Strings solo on clawhammer banjo
[2] Last Time Played 2022-09-24 | 149 show gap
[3] FTP – The Stanley Brothers
[4] Billy Failing on lead vocals
[5] FTP – Larry Sparks
[6] Billy Strings solo on guitar on single mic
[7] Full band around single mic