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Concert Reviews:
Greensky Bluegrass spells it out at the Fillmore

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

Posted: Sunday, February 10, 2019

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DETROIT -- There was no question Greensky Bluegrass knew where it was playing on Friday night, Feb. 8.

Some bands -- alright, nearly every band -- shout out to the city they're playing in on a given night. But the rootsy Kalamazoo-formed quintet went a few steps further for the first of its two weekend shows at the Fillmore Detroit. The group structured a 15-song show of songs whose first letters spelled out the locale -- D-E-T-R-O-I-T for the first set, M-I-C-H-I-G-A-N for the second, including several tunes, such as "Tied Down" and "Old Barn," that made clear reference to Greensky's home state.

The clever concept might not have been evident to the 1,500 or so fans at the time, or until they saw it on paper, but on Friday it was cohesive and characteristically electrifying, a celebration of the group's improvisational instinct and inventive brand of contemporary, in some cases space-age, bluegrass.

Greensky also went surprisingly light on its three-week-old new album "All For Money," though the title track and "Courage For the Road" were among Friday's highlights. The troupe also pulled out some choice covers -- the Grateful Dead's "Eyes of the World," sandwiched between "Don't Lie" and "Tied Down" in a 20-minute blast that opened the show, and Paul Simon's "Gumboots," which flowed out of Greensky's own "Indian Trail." And the rest of the show had a needle-drop quality, in which the likes of "I'd Probably Kill You," "Train Junkie," "Miss September" and "Hold On" were somebody in the crowd's favorites, and usually a lot of people's.

The star of the show, of course, remained Greensky's improvisations, lengthy, tuneful meanderings that spoke to an instinctive instrumental communication that seems almost offhanded between the group members. And while everybody had a chance to shine, on Friday it was Anders Beck's dobro that particularly cut through the mix, with a biting, metallic edge on during songs such as "Run or Die" and a trippy take on "It's Not Mine." Chatter was kept to a minimum, though during the second set Beck and mandolinist Paul Hoffman noted that Greenksy's two-night stand was being performed "between two nights" -- the tall suits of armor flanking the Fillmore stage.

Greensky and opener Billy Strings return for a second show at the Fillmore, 2115 Woodward Ave. Doors at 7 p.m. $20-$49.50. 313-961-5451 or thefillmoredetroit.com.

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