Billy Strings Weaves Eclectic Musical Fabric at Roundhouse in London

By Stu Kelly / November 16, 2023

Billy Strings‘ performance at the iconic Roundhouse in London was a mesmerizing journey through the heart and soul of bluegrass, folk, and a touch of rock. The historic venue, with its roots dating back to the mid-19th century as a railway roundhouse, provided a unique and intimate setting for the musical prowess of the virtuoso guitarist and his band.

The evening started with a dynamic first set showcasing the breadth of Billy Strings’ musical influences. “Thirst Mutilator” set the tone with its energetic bluegrass vibes, followed by the foot-stomping “Running” that had the audience hooked from the start. Classics like “Close By” by Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys and “Wild Bill Jones” by The Stanley Brothers paid homage to the genre’s rich history, blending seamlessly with the contemporary energy of Strings’ original compositions.

Strings’ connection to the roots of bluegrass was evident throughout the night, with standout performances of “This Old World” and “Pyramid Country.” The crowd was treated to a delightful surprise with a cover of Johnny Horton‘s “Ole Slew-Foot,” showcasing Strings’ ability to make each song uniquely his own. The haunting rendition of Bob Dylan‘s “Señor (Tales of Yankee Power)” added a touch of folk poetry to the bluegrass mix.

The first set reached its peak with a soulful rendition of “Love and Regret” and the evocative “Cabin Song,” leaving the audience eager for what the second set had in store.

As the Roundhouse’s history loomed in the background, Strings and his band delved into the second set with a spirited performance of Bill Monroe‘s “Shenandoah Breakdown.” The energy continued to build with the traditional cover of “John Hardy” and the reflective “Away From the Mire,” showcasing Strings’ versatility as both a guitarist and a storyteller.

A surprise came in the form of a cover of Pearl Jam‘s “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town,” adding a rock touch to the bluegrass evening. The historical significance of the Roundhouse was not lost on the audience, especially given its past hosting of legendary acts like The Doors (one of only two UK appearances by The Doors with Jim Morrison in 1968), The Beatles’ unreleased 14-minute avant-garde recording Carnival of Light was recorded at the venue on January 28 and February 4, 1967. Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie, and Pink Floyd also graced the stage. The Rolling Stones Deluxe edition bonus disc of Sticky Fingers, recorded in 1971 and released in 2015 (5 tracks), was also recorded at the venue. 

Strings’ second set continued to captivate with the upbeat “Back Up and Push,” the reflective “I’ll Be Gone a Long Time,” and the crowd-pleaser “Doin’ Things Right.” The band’s seamless transitions between genres kept the audience on their toes, culminating in a spellbinding rendition of The Beatles’ “I’ll Cry Instead.”

Strings closed the evening with a powerful sequence of songs, including the heartfelt “Be Your Man,” the ethereal “Ice Bridges,” and the reflective “Drifting With the Tide.” The performance reached its emotional peak with Tom Paxton‘s “Leaving London,” a fitting tribute to the city and its rich musical history, especially within the walls of the Roundhouse. The band returned for the encore and graced the audience with a beautiful version of “Turmoil & Tinfoil” that capped off an incredible evening of music. 

In the hallowed space where musical legends once graced the stage, Billy Strings added another unforgettable chapter to the Roundhouse’s storied history. The night was a testament to the enduring power of live music and the ability of a talented artist to transcend genres, creating an experience that resonated with both the past and the present.

 

 

Setlist:

Set 1:

  • Thirst Mutilator
  • Running Close By (Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys cover)
  • Wild Bill Jones (The Stanley Brothers cover)
  • This Old World
  • Pyramid Country
  • Ole Slew-Foot (Johnny Horton cover)
  • Señor (Tales of Yankee Power) (Bob Dylan cover)
  • Kentucky Mandolin (Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys cover)
  • Love and Regret
  • Cabin Song

Set 2:

  • Shenandoah Breakdown (Bill Monroe cover)
  • John Hardy (traditional cover)
  • Away From the Mire
  • Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town (Pearl Jam cover)
  • All of Tomorrow
  • Back Up and Push (traditional cover)
  • I’ll Be Gone a Long Time
  • Doin’ Things Right
  • I’ll Cry Instead (The Beatles cover)
  • Be Your Man
  • Ice Bridges
  • Drifting With the Tide
  • Leaving London (Tom Paxton cover)

Encore:

  • Turmoil & Tinfoil
About the author

Stu Kelly