Night two of Billy & The Kids‘ quick two-show run of seaside venues blew into New York City with a head full of steam and dazzled the audience at The Rooftop at Pier 17 on Friday night. Bill Kreutzmann (Grateful Dead) had the same crew onboard his sonic ship as his previous port call in Baltimore with one important change. Among Kreutzmann’s established family of Reed Mathis thumping away on bass, Tom Hamilton (Joe Russo’s Almost Dead) and the newcomer Daniel Donato sharing their mutual appreciation society for the split guitar responsibilities, The Disco Biscuits‘ Aron Magner acing every kind of keyboard in his arsenal, and Jeff Franca on the other kit to fill out the rhythm section, it was the new Kid Sierra Hull who nearly stole the Billy & The Kids show.

Hull’s sweet, high register vocals and stellar mandolin playing added worlds of dimensions to the already potent mixture Billy and his Kids had going. Though the first of this two-show run saw Kanika Moore bring some soft and sultry elements to the mic, Hull’s musical chops equaled her impressive vocal contributions and the sum total of her contributions Friday night was impressive to put it lightly.

Hull nailed her vocal takes on Grateful Dead classics like “Black Muddy River” and “Wharf Rat”, setting them apart from the gruffer offerings from Hamilton, Donato, and even Mathis. A few of the evening’s covers, like Marvin Gaye styled “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)”, George Jones’ “The Race Is On“, and Bob Marley’s “Could You Be Loved”, were the standouts but her picking skills were the wind in the sails of many of the best moments of the night. Her solo at the end of the second set closing “Franklin’s Tower”, for example, drew uproarious cheers. One thing is for certain, she won herself a boatload of new fans last night.

Not to say that the other Kids were shirking their duties by any means. Tom Hamilton, between his work with Bill Kreutzmann and his more regular Grateful Dead-themed gig in JRAD, has him up there with Jeff Chimenti on “Most contributed to the legacy of the Dead without actually being a member of the original band” title…a coveted, if limited in candidates, honor. Aron Magner, for his part, came in on the show opening “China Cat Sunflower” in mid-show form with his electric piano fills and general keyboard wizardry and never looked back.

Billy & The Kids – “China Cat Sunflower” [Pro-Shot] – 8/18/23

Jeff Franca, alongside his percussive partner for the evening Billy K, was part of what was easily the extended highlight of not just the evening but one of the best post-Dead jams that have likely happened, period. Or one of the most fun at the very least. Opening the second set with “Drums” not only gave the show a clear divide between sets but it’s just a plain old thoughtful way for the pair to let the rest of the band have a few extra minutes added to their set break rest. Instead of a more traditional “Space”, this “Drum” fed into a very cosmic cover of Bob Marley’s “Could You Be Loved” which benefitted, as mentioned, from some feminine energy with Hull on vocals.

From there, a sing-a-long “Uncle John’s Band” made sure the crowd was out there and having themselves a ball before Hamilton closed out the jam with throaty, more cosmic-tinged takes on “Bird Song” and “Liberty”. It was an unexpected, one-of-a-kind chuck of music that stood among the most crowd-pleasing and universally uplifting moments seen in many a year. That run pushed last night’s show into the conversation of masterpieces of this project’s body of work and was yet another feather in Kreutzman’s cap.

The encores featured a pair of tunes that pulled this musical voyage into port in fine style. A silly and serious take on Boudleaux Bryant’s “Wake Up, Lil Suzy” and a moving acapella take on beloved Dead closer “And We Bid You Goodnight” had the crowd clapping on cue, in perfect unison, smiles and, even, in some cases, tears, visible on every face.

The ovation for Kreutzmann was lengthy and visibly moving to him as he stood and stretched his legs after a long night’s work. Kreutzmann has long been the workhorse of the Dead sound, a working man in one of the greatest bands in the land. His work last night, rock steady, intricate but not flashy or splashy, gave everyone else the rock steadiest platform possible to do their finest. Accurate as a metronome and just as generous, helpful, and supportive to the show was the man at the top of the bill himself.

Speaking of supportive, Kreutzmann once again used his setbreak to do what he could to spread the word of missing “Kid” James Casey (Trey Anastasio Band) who is involved in a lengthy, and sadly, costly battle with cancer as well as the plight of the people of his beloved Hawaiian home who are recovering from a devastating Maui wildfire. A fundraiser for Casey’s medical bills and recovery can be found here and a suggested Hawaiian relief charity Kreutzmann selected can be found here.

Billy hugged himself and rocked back and forth for a few moments during that ovation in an effort to show the crowd he was feeling their appreciation deep down in his heart…but he didn’t really need to. It was painted on his face clear as day. Kreutzmann is one of the last creators of all this magic left standing and the love the crowd was heaping on him was for more than just the three some odd hours of sonic bliss. It was thanks for a lifetime of giving the world a beat to dance to and the music that made them want to. A life truly well spent.

Check out some photos below from Ant BraatenAndrew Blackstein, Maggie Miles, and David Gray.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by @billykandthekids

Setlist: Billy & The Kids | The Rooftop At Pier 17 | New York, NY | 8/18/23

Set 1: China Cat Sunflower (Grateful Dead), How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You) (Marvin Gaye), Truckin’ (Grateful Dead), The Race Is On (Don Rollins), Candyman (Grateful Dead), When I Paint My Masterpiece (Bob Dylan), Black Muddy River (Grateful Dead), Cumberland Blues (Grateful Dead), Built To Last (Grateful Dead)

Set 2: Drums > Spacey Could You Be Loved (Bob Marley) > Uncle John’s Band (Grateful Dead) > Bird Song (Grateful Dead) > Liberty (Grateful Dead), Take Me To The River (Al Green), Wharf Rat (Grateful Dead), Franklin’s Tower (Grateful Dead)

Encore: Wake Up Lil Suzy (Boudleaux Bryant), And We Bid You Goodnight (Grateful Dead)