Billy Strings made his highly anticipated return to The Capitol Theatre on Thursday to kick off his Deja Tu: Return to the Experiment concert series. The four-night run of shows serves as a sequel to the bluegrass phenom’s stint of fan-less concerts at the famed Port Chester, NY venue in February 2021, the Deja Vu Experiment.

Strings received a jovial welcome as he and his bandmates Jarrod Walker (mandolin), Billy Failing (banjo), and Royal Masat (upright bass) took the stage, with the guitarist remarking, “Back home again, here at The Cap.” The evening’s entertainment began with a traditional run through Jimmie Skinner‘s “You Don’t Know My Mind” before an extensive trip through “Pyramid Country”. The one-two punch of the tradgrass up against Billy’s exploratory psychedelic-infused jamgrass immediately personified the duality of his artistry in the first 20 minutes of the concert.

“Pyramid Country” led into the first nod to the Grateful Dead of the evening with “Ol’ Slewfoot”, a Johnny Horton song favored by the jam juggernauts during their early acoustic sets. These concerts will once again see Strings and company pay tribute to the Dead’s legendary 1971 run of concerts at The Cap, during which they conducted extrasensory perception (ESP) experiments using the audience. For Thursday’s show, audiences attempted to mentally transmit an image of a feather to banjo player Béla Fleck at his Nashville home. This experiment—like Billy’s previous attempts as well as the Dead’s—once again proved unsuccessful.

Related: Béla Fleck Stages All-Star ‘My Bluegrass Heart’ Show At The Ryman With Billy Strings, Sam Bush, More [Videos]

Another cover ensued with Gordon Lightfoot‘s “Cold On The Shoulder” ahead of a run of originals with “West Dakota Rose”, Love & Regret“, and “Wargasm”. Cooling down with some Dan Fogelberg, Billy displayed some instrumental acrobatics as he ended “Along The Road” on the same note that began Roy Acuff‘s “Streamline Cannonball”. Welcoming guest banjo player Tony Trischka to the stage, the rest of the set was dominated with good ole’ mountain music featuring Earl FlattLester Scruggs& The Foggy Mountain Boys‘ “Groundspeed” and finally Bill Monroe‘s “John Hardy” to close the first frame.

Returning for set two of eight for the Deja Tu run, Billy kicked things off by pairing a lengthy “Bronzeback” with the Renewal contemplation “Secrets”. A slew of covers then ensued with Béla Fleck’s “Slipstream”, Doc Watson‘s “Red Rocking Chair”, and Bad Livers‘ “Pretty Daughter”, with Strings steadily gaining steam all along the way. Slowing things down with some sentimentality, “Love Like Me” came next before “Away From The Mire”. In the musical Venn diagram that is Billy Strings, few songs encapsulate the perfect mix of lyrical depth and improvisational possibilities than this Home track.

Winding down the second set, Billy invited us to listen to the echoes of our “Long Forgotten Dream”. The ensemble had one more nod to the Dead in tow with “Dire Wolf” before Ralph Stanley’s “Katy Daley” closed out set two. Taking the stage once more, Strings, Failing, Walker, and Masat gathered around a single microphone to evangelize “If Your Hair’s Too Long, There’s Sin In Your Heart” to send everyone home.

Check out a collection of Borrowed Tune‘s fan-shot videos from Billy Strings at The Capitol Theatre on Thursday for night one of Deja Tu. Full audio is available courtesy of taper cabinetmusic.

Billy Strings – The Capitol Theatre – Port Chester, NY – 2/3/22

Billy Strings – The Capitol Theatre – Port Chester, NY – 2/3/22 – First Set Preview

Billy Strings – “You Don’t Know My Mind” (Jimmie Skinner) – 2/3/22

Billy Strings – “Cold On Shoulder” (Gordon Lightfoot) – 2/3/22

Billy Strings – “West Dakota Rose” – 2/3/22

Billy Strings, Tony Trischka – “John Hardy” (Bill Monroe) – 2/3/22

Billy Strings – The Capitol Theatre – Port Chester, NY – 2/3/22 – Set Two Preview

Billy Strings – “Bronzeback” – 2/3/22

Billy Strings – “Slipstream” (Béla Fleck) – 2/3/22

Billy Strings – “Pretty Daughter” (Bad Livers) – 2/3/22

Billy Strings – “Away From The Mire” – 2/3/22

Billy Strings – “Dire Wolf” (Grateful Dead) – 2/3/22

Billy Strings – “If Your Hair’s Too Long, There’s Sin In Your Heart” (Dean & Mary Brown) – 2/3/22

View Videos

Setlist: Billy Strings | The Capitol Theatre | Port Chester, NY | 2/3/22

Set One: You Don’t Know My Mind (Jimmie Skinner), Pyramid Country > Ol’ Slewfoot (Johnny Horton), Cold On The Shoulder (Gordon Lightfoot), West Dakota Rose, Love & Regret, Wargasm, Along The Road (Dan Fogelberg) – Streamline Cannonball (Roy Acuff), Groundspeed (Flatt, Scruggs, & The Foggy Mountain Boys) [1], John Hardy (Bill Monroe) [1]

Set Two: Bronzeback > Secrets, Slipstream (Béla Fleck), Red Rocking Chair (Doc Watson), Pretty Daughter (Bad Livers), Love Like Me, Away From The Mire – Long Forgotten Dream, Dire Wolf (Grateful Dead), Katy Daley (Ralph Stanley)

Encore: If Your Hair’s Too Long, There’s Sin In Your Heart (Dean & Mary Brown) [2]

[1] With Tony Trischka
[2] Single Mic, Guitar/Mando