Photos by Todd Radunsky
The Scene: An eager crowd lined up at the Boulder Theater this past Sunday evening for one of the most anticipated shows of the spring. The legendary Sam Bush and Del McCoury were in town and this time they said farewell to their band mates in favor of a super intimate acoustic set that saw the normally jubilant bluegrass contingent hushed and attentive to a rare duet performance from two of most talented and charismatic personalities in the music industry.
Although the audience was seated for this show and space for general admission patrons was seriously limited, most people seemed to slowly warm to the atmosphere as it created a unique bond with the performers that is especially rare in today’s concert scene. Throughout the night, the crowd was treated to a unique blend of comedy, stories and old time bluegrass. Although there were a few minor missteps along the way including several unruly patrons who insisted that the duo cease talking and play more music, Sam and Del enthralled the crowd and proved why they are the undisputed masters of their genre.
Sam Bush & Del McCoury: The crowd was buzzing as etown’s Nick Forster took the stage at 8:30 to introduce the performers. The crowd was obviously very aware of the significance of this show and an appearance from Forster further enhanced the excitement in the room as latecomers with GA tickets scrambled for the few remaining seats dotted throughout the balcony. Sam and Del came out shortly thereafter in full acoustic splendor, armed with stories and a great selection of songs.
From McCoury’s personal accounts of the legendary Bill Monroe to snippets about Telluride Bluegrass Festival, life on the road and other life lessons from the world of bluegrass, the duo seemed to have a natural chemistry that cast a spell over the audience. The set appeared to be relatively improvised and both artists exchanged animated conversation before choosing the next song to play. The selections ranged from aging Bill Monroe tracks to several recently conceived duets. Highlights included an incredible version of the original “Bluegrass Stomp,“ a pitch perfect “High on a Mountain” and a flawed but surprising cover of U2’s “Pride (In the Name of Love).” Del confessed after the song that he had his doubts about their choice to cover the U2 classic, but it still managed to draw a positive reaction from the crowd.
Throughout the mellow hour and a half performance, McCoury’s aching voice slowly warmed up and he shined on many of the older tracks including “Roll on Buddy” and “Midnight on the Stormy Deep.” Although this set had its fair share of strong moments, it peaked when Bush picked up the fiddle and McCoury the banjo for a ruthless call and response jam. Needless to say this brought the audience to their feet as McCoury rarely plays the banjo in a live setting.
You can catch Sam Bush and Del McCoury together and with their respective bands at the Rocky Grass Festival In Lyons, July 26th-28th. Both performances are sure to be fierce!
Stage Presence: B
Set/Light Show: B +