The String Cheese Incident at 1stBank Center
The String Cheese Incident
Photos by Larry Hulst
The String Cheese Incident wrapped up their second consecutive New Year’s Eve show at the 1stBank Center in Broomfield, Colorado on December 31. The group delivered 25 songs during a three-set show that lasted about four-and-a-half hour and featured a blend of fan favorites, including “Birdland,” “Way Back Home,” “Rivertrance,” “It is What it Is,” and a hefty number of songs from the band’s 2000-era catalogue.
The Del McCoury Band opened the night with 50 minutes of Appalachian-style, Old-Timey bluegrass that kept the growing crowd of SCI fans on their feet and dancing. Arguably the United States’ premier Bluegrass performer, watching McCoury perform is like witnessing treasured history take place before your eyes. Though well into his seventies, his nimble fretwork, flatpicking and authoritative voice would no doubt give other Bluegrass acts half his age a serious run for their money. McCoury’s band featured his sons Ronnie McCoury on mandolin, Rob McCoury on banjo, and Alan Bartram on bass and Jason Carter on fiddle. The band stuck around to join SCI during their first set for “Rolling in My Sweet Baby’s Arms,” “Shenandoah Breakdown,” and “Cold Rain and Snow.” Carter and Ronnie McCoury stayed onstage with the group for “Birdland”>“Wheel Hoss”>”Birdland.”
The three String Cheese Incident sets showcased the extraordinary musicianship and the truly democratic approach of six musicians more than happy to hand the reins over to another member who is following his musical muse. Guitarist Bill Nershi and electric mandolin player and violinist Michael Kang often stepped to the forefront with authoritative force, leading the jams between song with pointed leads and sharp riffing, exploring the space between Jason Hann’s expressive percussion and drummer Michael Travis’ meaty rhythms with fluidity. Bassist Keith Moseley eased the transitions into the extended jams between songs, experimenting with a melody and playing around the riff before landing on the groove, while Kyle Hollingsworth’s expansive keyboard explorations drove the group with persistent, muscular harmonies and near prog-rock chording (“Colliding”).
Save for a few slower tempo songs, “Windy Mountain,” “Give Me the Love,” and a laidback but jaunty “Smile,” the night’s setlist was largely comprised of up-tempo rockers, including “Let’s Go Outside,” “Desert Dawn,” and a reprise of The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” followed by a reprise of “Just One Story,” concluding both songs from the band’s Dec. 28 concert, the first of the band’s three-show New Year’s Eve run at the center.
The performance was accompanied by all the spectacle SCI fans have come to expect from the band on New Year’s Eve: each band member hit the stage wearing a tuxedo and the light show was a work of worker throughout the night, accentuating the songs with swirling psychedelic spotlights and special effects. Taking the stage just before midnight to begin the third and final set, SCI launched into “Rivertrance” and as the band played, the light show intensified with a cyclone of color, several dancers gracefully spun inside giant plastic balloons designed to look like holiday snow globes, while aerial dancers dressed as angels swirled above the ecstatic audience. As “Rivertrance” reached a frenetic pace, thousands of white balloons dropped on the packed house.
The concert ended well into the morning of the first official day of 2014, with SCI launching into Nershi’s tribute to the Centennial State, “Colorado Bluebird Sky.” As the last note faded, the band thanked its fans for their support during the last 20 years and left the stage with a final wave and the promise of more to come.