Words & Photos by Kevin Kenly
After a triumphant headlining debut the night before, Billy Strings returned to Red Rocks Friday night with the intent of closing out his first two-night stand at these hallowed grounds with a bang.
Opening the first set with the one-two punch of “Taking Water” transitioning seamlessly into “Ice Bridges.” This would subsequently be the first of eight tracks off their newest album Renewal the band would play this evening.
Billy led the group through a brief take on “Hellbender,” before playing the gorgeous Norman Blake cover, “Last Train From Poor Valley.”
Billy and the band then launched into fan-favorite “Dust in a Baggie,” which featured fierce fretboard work from both Billy and Jarrod Walker on mandolin.
Later in the set, the group played a ferocious and scolding “Heartbeat of America,” which featured heavy bass bombs from Royal Masat, before covering Dan Fogelberg’s “Along the Road.”
The real highlight of the set was the segment that closed out the final chapter of set I. The run of “Love & Regret,” “Doin’ My Time” by the infamous Flatt & Scruggs, and the set closing “Hide & Seek” left the audience breathless before getting a short setbreak.
Set II saw the band return with gusto as they ripped through a short but sweet “Red Daisy.”
They then transitioned from “Thirst Mutilator” into “Running,” before cooling things off with a gut-wrenchingly beautiful rendition of the Jarrod Walker penned “Show Me The Door.”
Other set II highlights included a cover of The String Cheese Incident’s “Black Clouds” that saw Billy pay tribute to some of his Colorado brethren.
Billy also led the group through an electrifying rendition of Keith Allison’s “Freeborn Man,” much to the delight of the audience, before lighting into the set closing “Meet Me at the Creek,” that saw some incredible banjo licks from Billy Failing.
After a brief encore break, the group slowed things down with a stunningly beautiful take on The Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses,” done in the style of Old & In the Way. This really showcased the group’s ability to harmonize.
Billy bid the audience farewell after a quick run-through of The Stanley Brothers’ “How Mountain Girls Can Love,” and the audience made their way out of the venue with their cups runneth over.
Billy plays another show in Denver tonight at the Mission Ballroom, if you have the means, I highly suggest not missing it!
Taking Water (>) Ice Bridges, Hellbender, Last Train From Poor Valley, Dust in a Baggie, Psycho, Heartbeat of America, Along the Road, Streamline Cannonball, Love & Regret, Doin’ My Time, Hide & Seek
Red Daisy, Thirst Mutilator (>) Running, Show Me the Door, Black Clouds, Home, One Tin Soldier, Everything’s the Same, This Old World, Freeborn Man, Meet Me at the Creek
Wild Horses, How Mountain Girls Can Love