From a fresh cover of Led Zeppelin to old rarities and fan favorites, the Kalamazoo-bred heroes made the opening blast of a two-night stand a special show for GSBG devotees. Review, photos, videos.
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While Black Friday has morphed into Black and Blue Friday at malls and retail outlets across the country in recent years, the day in Kalamazoo continues to be synonymous with the colors green and blue instead.
Kalamazoo-bred Greensky Bluegrass continues to grow in stature on the national scene but one thing continues to ring true: Regardless of how much the band rises in popularity and how large the venues they’ve played of late, the hometown favorites still make it home for the holidays.
And as a true testament to just how far Greensky has come in the jam realm, the band managed to sell out two shows in a row at Kalamazoo’s State Theatre for Thanksgiving weekend, even with jamgrass pioneers String Cheese Incident doing a three-night run in Chicago, Dead and Company playing at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Billy Strings playing a big show at The Intersection in Grand Rapids, and Lotus performing in Royal Oak this weekend.
The boys, whose residences are now scattered from K-zoo to Colorado to California, took to the stage Friday night at the State Theatre for the first night of their run, following an awe-inspiring set by Michigan folk fave May Erlewine, who is touring behind her latest release, “Mother Lion.”
After a set that featured, among other cuts, Erlewine originals “Wild,” “Never One Thing” “Shake the World” and Tom Petty’s “Learning to Fly,” Erlewine later joined the Greensky boys on stage during their first set, taking lead vocals on her very own “River Jordan” (video below) prior to trading verses with Greensky co-frontman and mandolin virtuoso Paul Hoffman on GSBG original “Past my Prime.”
Greensky wasted no time at all letting fans know they were in for a special show, opening with a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Thank You,” a first for the band, before transitioning the debut-opening number right into 2014’ “Burn Them” and a smoldering “Reuben’s Train.” The K-zoo quintet then hit deep with older cuts “Old Barns” and an “All Four” for the ages, prior to Erlewine joining them for the aforementioned cuts.
A LONG NIGHT OF TREATS, RARITIES AND RIFFING
After a Dave Bruzza-driven “Freeborn Man” and a Hoffman-led “Miss September” the band went right back into “Burn Them,” closing out a lengthy first set that many thought would have wrapped up two songs earlier.
Hoffman’s “Merely Avoiding” opened the second set before Bruzza took his “Worried about the Weather” to some deep, dark places, and then lightened things up with a passionate “Wings for Wheels,” reminding all that this isn’t just Hoffman’s band and that there’s two frontmen.
Bruzza, who referenced his new buzzcut in the first set, continued to own his hometown stage with a rollicking cover of Old and in the Way’s “Pig in a Pen” (which has become a Greensky staple) and “Light up or Leave Me Alone” sandwiched around “Hoffman’s newer “Hold On” before hitting home with the sentimental “Room Without a Roof.” Hoffman then took the stage back, closing out the second set with a rare “Frederico,” “Just to Lie” and a “Living Over” the band’s most recent single, which resonated with all 1,500 people in attendance.
Greensky then closed things out the way they started, reaching back for a classic cover debut, this time playing the Rolling Stones’ “Salt of the Earth,” a song that was highlighted by teases of the Grateful Dead’s “I Know You Rider” and Phish’s “Chalkdust Torture.”
Kalamazoo’s Michael Bont and Denver’s Anders Beck traded solos all night long on banjo and dobro, as Bont shined throughout the evening, taking his solos to a level that let everyone in attendance know that this was still his hometown.
Greensky, which also features bassist Mike Devol, returns to the State Theatre tonight for the second of two sold-out shows with Erlewine, before wrapping up the year at annual Mexico bluegrass bash Strings & Sol and a three-night New Year’s run in Chicago, where they will perform with fellow Michigan native Billy Strings.
(Speaking of Billy Strings, come back to Local Spins later today for a review and photos from his Friday night show in Grand Rapids.)
PHOTO GALLERY: Greensky Bluegrass at State Theatre (11/24/17)
VIDEO: May Erlewine and Greensky Bluegrass, “River Jordan”
VIDEO: Greensky Bluegrass, “Salt of The Earth”
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