PHOTOS + REVIEW — Billy Strings in Tampa & St. Augustine 2023

Photos of Billy Strings • April 18, 2023 • Yuengling Center —Tampa, FL • Photos by — instagram.com/gtdmouse

LIVE REVIEW — TAMPA

Billy Strings | April 18, 2023 | The Yuengling Center, Tampa, FL

It doesn’t matter that it’s Tuesday: Yuengling Arena on the campus of the USF Bulls fills up to welcome Billy Strings. The crowd is a literal melting pot of music fans from metal to bluegrass, all factions are equally represented. Everyone is salivating for the first of four nights in Florida.

The show begins with Keith Allison’s traditional tune “Freeborn Man.” Alex Hargreaves wastes little time shredding on the fiddle as they rile up this huge arena crowd. The lights, sound, and production for this big time show are just fantastic. Rows and rows of lights twinkle and shine while black and white video shows every pluck and strum. Hargreaves hits big again in Hot Rize’s “Nellie Kane” before they drop into the intoxicating “Highway Hypnosis.” Transporting us to the stars for a space walk is bassist Royal Masat. He is Mission Control, just counting down the moments until Billy launches into the stratosphere. Billy steps to the edge of the stage to lean into the solo and these rabid music fans are chomping at the bit to hear every note! Whew, that’s how you do it! I don’t care who you are, that man can flat pick! Billy takes a moment here to shout out his sound engineer, Andy Lytle, who has filled this space beautifully. Billy stops the show to tell us a story of how they met at Gasparilla Music Festival a few years ago. Now over 500 shows later, they are still making magic. Billy goes solo for a few songs including a cover Pearl Jam’s “Soon Forget.” The band returns for a train of songs that ends with J.J. Cale’s “Ride Me High.” The enthusiastic crowd rewards them for their fantastic transitions, hootin’ and hollerin’ all the way!

Set two begins with The Oak Ridge Boys’ “Dig A Little Deeper in the Well.” Next is “Fireline” off of his album, Renewal. Hargreaves sounds like he’s playing synth with his rad effect pedals as they jam their way to greatness. Refusing to stop, they rip through “Hellbender” and the Bob Dylan cover “I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine” before playing my favorite song of the evening, “Secrets.” This gives way to his huge hit, “Turmoil & Tinfoil” which lasts a glorious sixteen minutes. Here these fellas take their time to explore all their weirdest noises and dings. Billy ramps them up and the whole squad is mixing and churning with fervor. Taking command of the room Billy stands alone. He has absolutely phenomenal command with his instrument. A waterfall of sound pours from his guitar, as gives all his thirsty fans enough to drink.
Finishing off their set, they perform Jimmy Cliff’s “Sitting in Limbo.” It’s a welcome cover that hasn’t been played in over 100 shows. Wow what a show!

The band plays through the encore break while standing around a single mic. Performing Don Reno’s “I’m Gone, Long Gone” before finishing with the Lindsay Lou co-written tune, “Freedom.” Billy and his band are a must see!

Billy Strings Tampa Review by Spencer Storch.


LIVE REVIEW — ST. AUGUSTINE

Billy Strings | April 20, 2023 | The AMP, St. Augustine, FL

When Billy Strings announced a three-night residency at the St. Augustine Amphitheatre starting on 4/20, I knew it was going to be a great one. One of my favorite artists at my favorite venue in Florida; what more could I ask for? I had been wanting to see him live for a while now so I felt lucky to be chosen to cover the 4/20 show in St. Augustine because this was the Billy Strings show that I was meant to see.

There really is something almost magical about this the St. Augustine Amphitheatre. There’s not a bad seat in the house (besides a few obstructed view seats in the back), and it’s close enough to the water that even on a warm April night, you can still feel a cool sea breeze after the sun goes down. The place was packed with people of all ages who were all on their feet from the second the show started until the very end.

Billy Strings was definitely in high spirits as he walked on stage sporting a pair of black sunglasses, opening with a cover of “Your Love is Like a Flower” by Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, followed by his song “Away from the Mire” from the 2019 album “Home”. It was clear Billy had been celebrating the day backstage when he momentarily forgot some of the words, which is not something that happens very often. Billy tried to recover quickly, but he just smiled and said, “aww, fuck, I lost it,” as the crowd roared with laughter. Over the next two and a half hours, Billy treated us to a perfectly curated setlist that featured some themed covers as well as some of his originals in celebration of this glorious day. Some of the highlights of the first set were covers of John Hartford’s “2 Hits and the Joint Turned Brown” and my favorite feel-good song of the night, “Granny Woncha Smoke Some Marijuana”. Billy rounded out set one with a blistering cover of Frank Wakefield’s “End of the Rainbow”, which had me feeling some serious late Jeff Austin (Yonder Mountain String Band) vibes.

After a short break Billy and his band returned to the stage with “Red Daisy” a cut off their 2021 album Renewal. During set two Billy jammed so long and hard that I often forgot what song he was even playing until he brought it all back at the end. This set was filled with some great covers as well as some fan favorite originals. The biggest surprise of the night was a killer cover of Willie Nelson’s “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die” which was fitting given the date.

I need to take a moment and acknowledge Billy’s amazing band, banjo player Billy Failing, bassist Royal Masat, mandolin player Jarrod Walker and violinist Alex Hargreaves. These guys go out there and perform two completely unique sets comprising of different songs each night of the tour. As amazing as Billy Strings is on his own, his band deserves some major credit for helping him sound great at each tour stop. Near the end of set two Billy Strings stepped back to give banjo player, Billy Failing a chance to play one of his original songs called “So Many Miles” which really helped showcase the sheer talent of this band. The band finished set two with a nearly thirteen minute, jammed out version of “Hide and Seek” off “Renewal”.

After a quick break, Billy Strings returned to the stage blazing with a cover of “Holding” by John Hartford which was perfect for the occasion. I could tell Billy was in a great mood as he danced and sang carefree, taking off his guitar for the first time that night. It was the perfect end to one of my favorite experiences I’ve ever at St. Augustine Amphitheatre. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect set list or better weather. The next time Billy Strings hits Florida, I’ll definitely be making the drive back to St. Augustine.

Billy Strings St. Augustine Review by Trevor Bosmans.


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