Billy Strings brought his three-night run of shows at the St. Augustine Amphitheatre in Florida to a close on Sunday with a performance that prominently featured J.J. Cale‘s “Ride Me High” as a recurring interlude. While the weekend of fun in the sun in St. Augustine is over, it is only the beginning of a spring tour that will see various livestreams and socially distant pod concerts across the southeast.
While Sunday shows often see Strings deliver a more traditional bluegrass setlist, Sunday’s concert featured a healthy mix of extended improvisation mixed in. After kicking off with the original “Hollow Heart” off the Grammy-winning album Home, Strings took “While I’m Waiting Here” out for a brief ride. Things began to truly pick up steam as the ensemble fired up “Pyramid Country”, typically a healthy improvisational vehicle. While some may have been a bit dismayed at the seemingly-concise jam that followed, it was all just part of a greater plan.
By segueing into “Ride Me High”, Strings began a cycle that would continue throughout the show as he took the song—also favored by Widespread Panic—down a rough and rowdy road. Before long, however, it was time to high-tail it back to “Pyramid Country” and pick right back up where the previous improvisation had left off. Yet, much like Michael Corleone in The Godfather III, just when audiences thought they were out of “Ride Me High”, Billy pulled them back in with a reprise of the song, making this a double-decker “Pyramid Country” > “Ride Me High” po’boy sandwich.
Things then began to settle down a bit as Strings and company entered into a more traditional Sunday program. Complete with “Love Like Me”, “Running”, “Show Me The Door”, and “Tipper”, audiences were able to catch their breath and relax, if only for a moment. The first set finally came to a blazing end with an extended run through “Fire Line”.
While storm clouds plagued Florida with rain on Saturday and even cast dark suspicion of precipitation on Friday, Strings waited until the Sunday show to bring out The String Cheese Incident‘s “Black Clouds”. Starting off set two with the reliable jam vehicle, Strings once again proved the time-tested adage to “never miss a Sunday show.” The tempo control for night three once again shifted back to a more relaxed pace, as traditional tellings of “Leaders”, “This Old World”, “Ice Bridges”, and “A Good Woman’s Love”, lulled the crowd into a sense of comfort and security.
Rumblings of things to come began to emerge, however, as “Doin’ My Time” was able to stretch its legs a bit. Following a couple of breather numbers in “Air Mail Special” and “She Makes My Love Come Rolling Down”, it was time once again to kick out the jams with “Meet Me At The Creek”. Another reliable jam vehicle, it no doubt came as a shock when the song was limited to only brief improvisation—but once again, Strings had something planned as he reprised “Ride Me High” one more time to work the crowd into a frenzy before bringing “Meet Me At The Creek” around once more to close out the frame. Upon returning to the stage, after giving the fans a thank you and a much-deserved “hell yeah,” Strings brought the weekend to a close with “Hold The Woodpile Down”.
For a full list of upcoming Billy Strings spring tour dates, head here.
Listen to full-show audio at St. Augustine Amphitheatre on 3/21/21, courtesy of taper Z-Man.
Billy Strings – St. Augustine Amphitheatre – St. Augustine, FL – 3/21/21
Setlist: Billy Strings | St. Augustine Amphitheatre | St. Augustine, FL | 3/21/21
Set One: Hollow Heart, While I’m Waiting Here > Pyramid Country > Ride Me High > Pyramid County > Ride Me High, Love Like Me, Running, Show Me The Door, Tipper, Fireline
Set Two: Black Clouds, Leaders, This Old World, Ice Bridges, A Good Woman’s Love, Doin’ My Time, Airmail Special, She Makes My Love Come Rollin’ Down, Meet Me At The Creek > Ride Me High > Meet Me At the Creek
Encore: Hold The Woodpile Down