When most think of Prince’s classic “When Doves Cry,” the last thing someone thinks about is it to be reinterpreted into a psychedelic jam-centric bluegrass tune. But that’s what Greensky Bluegrass does best and that’s what they did Tuesday night at the Madison Theater.
Opened up by Ghost Light featuring Tom Hamilton on guitar, who has also been making waves touring with Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, playing majority of Jerry Garcia’s parts.
Greensky kicked off the set with “All for Money,” off their 2019 album of the same titled. Leading into “Grow Bananas” and a cover of “Can’t Stop Now” by New Grass Revival. That’s one of the best parts of experiencing Greensky live, they’re reimagining what Bluegrass can be.
From covering artists like the Grateful Dead, Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, to even Phish, the band is introducing fans of rock music to what bluegrass can be. With long jams that are often technical, and effects driven, Greensky sound like a rock band who trading their instruments in for mandolins, banjos, and a dobro and for that we’re thankful.
The first set concluded with Greensky taking it easy, covering the Eagles hit, “Take It Easy,” into “Take Cover,” back into a reprisal of the Eagles tune. Unlike most jam bands or even bluegrass bands Greensky’s vocals are mainly helmed by lead vocalist and mandolin player Paul Hoffman, who’s voice doesn’t lean toward the twang often heard in bluegrass, instead Hoffman definitely has a more rock tone. And unlike most bluegrass the group doesn’t focus on harmonies that much, but their attempt at Eagles harmonizing left me wanting to hear more.
Guitarist Dave Bruzza and dobro player Anders Beck together create an inventive style of improvisation that is clearly inspired from bluegrass greats but with a Jerry Garcia, Trey Anastasio, and Allman twist. With added effects and a light to match it’s no wonder artists like Greensky, Billy Strings, and the Rumpke Mountain Boys are beginning to see the success and bigger headlining acts in live music.
The second set would lean more jam heavy and on some of Greensky’s originals as well as back to back Bill Monroe covers that followed “When Doves Cry.” They would finish with a one song encore of “Who Is Frederico?” a song only performed live by Greensky.
With busy winter tour through April, Greensky is just at the beginning of a busy 2020. From headlining 4848 Festival in Snowshoe, WV to headlining their own festival Camp Greensky, as well as appearances at Bonnaroo and the Telluride Bluegrass Festival.
If you haven’t seen Greensky Bluegrass live, then you’re missing one of the most talented road acts working right now. From the musicianship to the inventive covers Greensky is a party.