Billy Strings Welcomes Alex Hargreaves & Plays 7-Song Encore In Madison
The concert also featured Strings’ debut take on “Tentacle Dragon” from Béla Fleck’s ‘My Bluegrass Heart’ album.
Billy Strings presented a special concert last night to start a three-night run in Madison, Wisconsin. Strings and his band — bassist Royal Masat, banjoist Billy Failing and mandolinist Jarrod Walker — were joined by fiddler Alex Hargreaves throughout Thursday’s show at The Sylvee. Additionally, the guitarist served up his debut live version of a song he contributed to on Béla Fleck’s My Bluegrass Heart album and honored the late Doc Watson’s birthday with a seven-song encore.
The five musicians opened with “Hide & Seek” from Billy’s Grammy-nominated 2021 studio album Renewal. Next up was a cover of “Wharf Rat” by the Grateful Dead that bled into a take on John Hartford’s “All Fall Down” which came complete with a “Death Trip” tease. It was then back to Renewal for “Hellbender” ahead of an “End Of The Rainbow” and “Runnin’ The Route” pairing. From there the ensemble played the title track from 2019’s Home LP, Jimmy Driftwood’s “Tennessee Stud,” Renewal’s “The Fire On My Tongue” and the traditional “Sally Goodwin” to close the first set of the run.
Strings went with Jimmie Skinner’s “Doin’ My Time” to launch the second set. Then, originals “On The Line” and “Love & Regret” were broken up by the traditional “Red Rocking Chair.” Home standout “Hollow Heart” came next before Billy led the group through “Tentacle Dragon (Revenge of the)” off Fleck’s 2021 LP. The guitarist not only contributed to the version found on My Bluegrass Heart, he also performed the song live as part of Béla’s guest-filled January concerts in Nashville and New York City.
The beloved “Dust In A Baggie” followed Strings’ premiere “Tentacle Dragon.” Next was “Show Me The Door,” the evening’s final song from Renewal, before the five-piece capped the frame with Jerry Reed’s “The Likes Of Me” and the gorgeous Home cut “Away From The Mire.”
Billy Strings has often pointed out what a huge influence Doc Watson is on his music. Yesterday marked what would have been Watson’s 99th birthday. As such, Strings ended the night in Madison with an encore featuring seven songs associated with the bluegrass legend. Billy went solo for an a capella “And Am I Born To Die?” before bringing out his bandmates for a run of “Way Downtown,” “Cocaine Blues,” “Shady Grove,” “Down Yonder,” “Summertime” and “Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down.” Strings previously played a Doc Watson tribute set at last year's Newport Folk Festival.
Watch fan-shot video from last night’s concert below:
Setlist (via BillyBase.net)
Set One: Hide & Seek, Wharf Rat > All Fall Down , Hellbender, End of the Rainbow > Runnin’ the Route, Home, Tennessee Stud, The Fire on my Tongue  > Sally Goodin
Set Two: Doin’ My Time, On The Line, Red Rocking Chair, Love & Regret, Hollow Heart, Tentacle Dragon (Revenge of the) , Dust In A Baggie, Show Me the Door, Likes of Me, Away from the Mire
Encore: And Am I Born To Die, Way Downtown, Cocaine Blues, Shady Grove, Down Yonder, Summertime, Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down
With special guest Alex Hargreaves on fiddle.
-  – Death Trip tease
-  – First Tube teases
-  – First Time Played
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