Billy Strings Namechecks London With Cover Debut At O2 Forum Kentish Town

Listen to audio of a concert featuring multiple references to its host city.

By Scott Bernstein Dec 8, 2022 7:26 am PST

Billy Strings brought his inaugural European Tour to London on Wednesday for a concert at O2 Forum Kentish Town. Strings worked multiple songs referencing the city that hosted the show into last night’s setlist including the premiere of the traditional “Handsome Molly,” complete with its opening “Well, I wish I was in London” lyric.

While the current trek marks the Grammy-winning guitarist’s initial tour of Europe, he did visit London this past March for a record store show and two nights at Islington Assembly Hall. Billy premiered two geographically-appropriate covers at Islington Assembly Hall and trotted them out again last night at O2 Forum Kentish Town.

Strings, bassist Royal Masat, fiddler Alex Hargreaves, banjo player Billy Failing and mandolinist Jarrod Walker opened Wednesday’s concert with their second-ever take on Jimmy Martin’s “Foggy Old London.” Martin released the song penned by Al Robinson as a single in 1960. Billy played “Slow Train” next and then weighed in on the venue:

“Well this is such a beautiful place here. I had no idea what we were walking into or what the O2 was or anything like that. But, I gotta say this is a beautiful, beautiful room. I like how it sounds. I like how you guys look out there. I like that circle thing. It just felt really cool as soon as we walked in here.”

Billy noted he’d like to come back for multiple nights at the venue. “I don’t have anything to do with that,” Strings quipped about his lack of participation in the booking process. “I don’t even know where we’re playing tomorrow.”

The five-piece went heavy on songs from 2021’s Renewal as eight songs from the LP were spread across the evening’s two sets. Strings and his bandmates also played an abundance of covers. They kept the 12 cuts performed in the first set fairly concise with “Wargasm” the only tune of the frame that was stretched out.

Billy Strings launched Wednesday’s second set by his lonesome with his original instrumental “Guitar Peace,” which bled into a full-band cover of Pink Floyd’s “Fearless.” Renewal standout “Know It All” then gave way to a well-jammed cover of The String Cheese Incident’s “Black Clouds.” The quintet then took on the recently debuted Blaze Foley cover “Cold Cold War” and the Strings/Walker co-write “Gone A Long Time” before performing Bill Monroe’s “My Sweet Blue Eyed Darling” for the first time in 65 shows. “I never thought I’d be able to play bluegrass in a foreign land,” Strings told the crowd after the Monroe cover. He revealed he hadn’t even left his home state of Michigan until he was 19. “I haven’t stopped since,” Billy added of his road warrior ways.

Last night’s second set rolled on with the pairing of Renewal’s “Love & Regret” and “Hellbender.” Strings and company then premiered “Handsome Molly.” Each mention of London earned huge cheers from the crowd. “Handsome Molly” led into the instrumental “New Camptown Races,” which segued into “Unwanted Love.” The band closed the frame with “Leaving London,” a song by Tom Paxton Billy initially played to end opening night of his March run at Islington Assembly Hall. The group went with Don Reno’s “I’m Gone, Long Gone” as the evening’s encore.

Stream an audience recording of last night’s show taped by Keith Litzenberger below:

Watch pro-shot video from featuring the start of Wednesday’s show:

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Billy Strings (See 577 videos)

The tour resumes tonight in Manchester. Billy Strings then hits Dublin, Ireland tomorrow before concluding the trek on Sunday in Glasgow. Watch a livestream of the Dublin concert via Earlier this week, Strings added 22 shows to his 2023 Spring Tour. Tickets go on sale via tomorrow (Friday, December 9) at 10 a.m. local venue times. Scroll below for a full list of Billy Strings tour dates.

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Setlist (via BillyBase)

Set One: Foggy Old London, Slow Train, Watch It Fall, John Henry, Fire Line, Running The Route, Nothing’s Working, In Case You Ever Change Your Mind, Red Rocking Chair > Wargasm, Ice Bridges, In The Morning Light, Dust In A Baggie

Set Two: Guitar Peace [1] > Fearless, Know It All > Black Clouds, Cold Cold World, Gone A Long Time, My Sweet Blue Eyed Darling, Love & Regret, Hellbender, Handsome Molly [2], New Camptown Races > Unwanted Love, Leaving London

Encore: I’m Gone, Long Gone

  • [1] – Billy Strings solo
  • [2] First Time Played – Traditional
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