Greensky Bluegrass finally took the stage at the Blue Ridge Falls Drive-In just outside of Asheville, North Carolina and wasted no time getting down to business. With a flash flood forcing them indoors for the first of their three day Halloween run, their reunion with their beloved crowd was delayed but done at last. Thanks to HYFI, the company that produced their stellar Leap Year Sessions, people around the world were able to share in the moment with the lucky sold out crowd.
The cosmic echoes of Paul Hoffman’s beautiful, rolling intro mandolin to “Living Over” got a warm cheer from the chilly fans. Clearly intent on coming out of the gate strong, the tune had a very tasty lead work from drop steel guitarist Anders Beck and some demented high-stepping from Hoffmann that kicked things up a notch. When Hoffman confessed to the crowd how happy they were to see them and how much the band had truly missed their fans, the emotion in his voice was as stirring as any of his vocals.
Hard to tell if Mike Bont was dressed as Richard Dreyfus‘ character Hopper from Jaws, or if he was just cold, but his crisp banjo work on “Fixin’ To Ruin” were definitely award worthy. Mike Devol‘s comic addressing of the crowd evolved into a loopy jam that served as a perfect musical intermezzo before the mournful “Past My Prime”. “Prime” saw more of that deep, dark Beck guitar tone next to the sweeter, cutting tone of guitarist Dave Bruzza and perfectly illustrated their complementary nature. After some blistering lead work on the mando by Hoffman, they got the first big cheers of the night as they transitioned back to the chorus before a magnificent fade away.
Closing out the first set with “Leap Year” gave Hoffman a chance to underscore the pain and frustration of losing the previous night to the storms and the world losing the entire year to the pandemic. When he howled “How can one more day make a year so long?” he was speaking for all of us.
As the band tuned up in the opening moments of the second set Anders took the mic to share his emotional response to the cancellation of the previous days’ plans before reiterating how happy Greenksy was to see all the smiling, though socially distant, faces. The ensuing high octane take on “Can’t Stop Now” was so clearly joyous and gleeful that I was worried their faces would be forever frozen in their ear to ear smiles.
The dark, meditative “What Happened To Jim?” was a perfect opportunity for lighting director Andrew Lincoln to paint the stage in a colorful kaleidoscope of pulsing psychedelic display that perfectly complemented the sonic barrage. Lincoln is the band’s not-so-secret weapon to their truly diverse shows. When Greensky is tearing through some of their more frenetic traditional bluegrass tunes he pops and swirls, but when they descend into the experimental abyss he matches their madness
As is often the case, Greensky’s inherent silliness shone through throughout the evening. Beck feigned jealousy at the fans choosing to bring illuminated letters spelling out Bruzza’s name before assuming the fans who had the “Beck” letters must be somewhere towards the back. Greensky’s road manager, Guido Batista, showed percussive skills that equaled his stellar stage management skills on “What You Need”. Stream host HYFI got a shout out from Anders who was impressed with his giant size on the projection screen. Beck went on to again underscore how happy the band was that their 236 day drought of playing before a live audience was finally over.
Crowd favorite “Windshield” got off to an ominous start thanks to a foreboding bass line from Devol and the pained, desperate vocals of Hoffman. The plaintive wail that comprises the chorus always seems to emerge from the loneliest corner of his soul and last night was no exception. Rising and falling against the clockwork bass line laid down by Devol, the waves of high speed picking were astounding. Greensky showed the tightness of a mid-run band by effortlessly passing the baton from Bont on banjo to Bruzza before he passed it along to Beck through a wonderful call and response sequence. Beck then did what he always does…he laid down an arching crescendo that can only be described as majestic.
Wisely, the band chose to relieve a little of the stress some joke filled antics on the Bruzza-led “Take Cover” before closing the set with a heart wrenching “Don’t Lie”. This sonic salute to the frustration felt in dealing with an unreliable narrator was perfect from an energy standpoint as well as metaphorical one. The lyrical parallels with the year we’ve all lived, the exhaustion caused by all the lies…the fraying of the pillars of society seem scarily prescient. The closing words of the song “It was supposed to be a simple year/An easy ride/But somebody lied/Don’t Lie” could easily be the cumulative sentiment of an entire nation.
For their encore Greensky surrendered to their inner Yacht Rock leanings and closed with a version of Foreigner’s “Feels Like The First Time.” It’s safe to say their version imparted an emotional weight and resonance that would be unfamiliar to fans of the traditional version of this rock “classic.” It was a cheeky end to an emotional roller coaster and Hoffman’s delight in telling fans “We’ll see you tomorrow” gave hope to music fans there and around the world that there was more great music to come!
Luckily for everyone there is still one more night to come in this three-night Halloween run and I’m sure there are plenty of Tricks & Treats to come in person an on the HYFI stream, which you can purchase HERE! Scroll down for a setlist of the show and check out a gallery of photos from the band below.
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Thank you so much for an incredible night! It’s so great to be back out playing music for you again. Couldn’t be more grateful for everyone’s love and respect, way to keep it safe. We can’t wait to do it again tonight! Limited tickets still available: Drive-In: https://ashevillemusichall.com/greenskyhalloween/ Stream: hyfi.com/greensky