In the second night of its three-night run at 1STBANK Center, the String Cheese Incident showcased its diversity throughout the evening dipping from its bluegrass roots weaving in elements of funk, rock and trance. In the past, the six-piece has been criticized by fans for high ticket prices and a lack of energy, but last night's performance was well-worth the $55 price tag.
The band hit the stage last night with an energy unsurpassed by most recent engagements after JD Crowe & The New South set a bluegrass standard with their opening set. Kyle Hollingsworth, keyboard virtuoso, crushed the opening song, "Just One Story," with rockin' solos on the Hammond organ.
Elsewhere during the first set, String Cheese trotted out a batch of other songs they haven't played for a while, such as "Pygmy Pony," a jazz fusion and Latin-inspired instrumental, as well as "Blue Bossa" and "Sing a New Song," which were all dusted off and polished to a brilliant shine. The band was clearly well rehearsed for this string of dates, as the songs were all performed with an ease of years past.
The band closed out the first set with Paul Simon's "Late in the Evening." Although Cheese has been known to cover other songs by this brilliant songwriter, such as "Under African Skies" in recent years, "Late in the Evening" hasn't really been in the band's repertoire since the early part of the last decade.
Returning from set break with members of The New South, Cheese led into a series of bluegrass covers. Although JD Crowe was sidelined by a broken arm, which prohibited him from playing the show, guitarist Bill Nershi was right at home on cuts like "How Mountain Girls Can Love," a traditional bluegrass song by Ruby Rakes, which opened the set, followed by "Rocky Road Blues" and "Shenandoah Breakdown," both by Bill Monroe.
Although the songs in the second set were well performed, the energy was not as high as it had been at the close of the first set. The pace changed, though, as Michael Kang, the often sleeveless mandolin and fiddle player, initiated his 1998 original, "Climb."
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Adding to an eclectically musical evening, Cheese finished off the night with a cover of Supertramp's "Bloody Well Right," and kept true to form over the course of the evening with spectacular lighting and a visual experience for which they're renown. Colorful characters on stilts and led jugglers sporadically appeared both in the vestibule and on the floor. Hula hoops and costumes also added to the illusion of "carnival" created by the band.
Cheese has announced that their once annual festival, the Winter Carnival, will be their only Colorado performances this year. The conclusion of night three this evening, will round out the band's 2011 Colorado performance, leaving fans wanting for the Red Rocks shows they are used to attending each summer. There are high hopes that tonight the band will deliver the energy that will keep Coloradoans content until 2012.
Click through for Setlist
The String Cheese Incident Winter Carnival - Night II 03.11.11 | 1STBANK Center, Broomfield, CO
SET I Just One Story Little Hands Boo Boo's Pik-a-nik Pygmy Pony Sirens On the Road Jellyfish Late in the Evening
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SET II How Mountain Girls Can Love Rocky Road Blues Shenandoah Breakdown Climb Sing a New Song Give Me the Love Blue Bossa Rhythm of the Road Dirk Shine
ENCORE Bloody Well Right Las Vegas
Last night's show (and every show of the run) is downloadable at LiveCheese.com
CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK Personal Bias: Having seen Cheese a few dozen times since 2001, I can say that there have been high points and low points in the musical engagement of their career. Random Detail: From the top of the First Bank Center, where we stood, the light show was spectacular. During "Las Vegas," stellar and captivating Nershi song, drive-by footage of the Vegas strip accompanied the traditional lighting, creating an illusion of the dark side of "Sin City." By the Way: An ongoing costume contest photo shoot was being held in the lobby as photographers shot "prom like" photos of cape wearing show goers. These photos can be viewed and costumed gods and goddesses can be voted on at the String Cheese Incident's Facebook page.