Review: String Cheese Incident @ United Palace Theater

String Cheese Incident @ United Palace Theater – December 3

Photos: Jeremy Gordon
Words: Brian Bavosa

After four-and-a-half years away from the Big Apple, the String Cheese Incident finally returned to New York City for a two-night run uptown at the United Palace this past weekend. Following the formula of several bands in our scene over the past years, SCI took time off the road in recent years before regrouping for smaller runs and mini-tours as of late. As this weekend proved, and especially the Saturday show which I caught, the band was firing on all cylinders and provided one of the most FUN shows I have seen in some time.

[All Photos by Jeremy Gordon]

Kicking off with a cover of  Talking Heads’ This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody), the announcement was clear: the band loves New York and would certainly be pulling out all the stops on this evening. With a first set also boasting a raucous Miss Brown’s Teahouse sandwich that segued seamlessly, led by the night’s MVP keyboardist Kyle Hollingsworth, into Herbie Hancock’s Chameleon and back again, the Colorado-based group was loose and poised to start the show.

Throughout the first set, and my first Cheese show since ’07, one thing continuously dawned on me: the band was mixing and matching both of the styles that made them so popular over the years – bluegrass (Wheel Hoss) and some of the funkier, dance-driven electronic rhythms that drummer and percussionist Michael Travis and Jason Hann have carried on to EOTO, which was also a source of contention for the group in the mid-2000’s, and word has it, was one of the reasons they took their collective break from the world of Cheese. If anything though, Saturday’s performance proved they had once again embraced their bluegrass roots to appease such members as guitarist Bill Nershi, as well as mixed in the electronic which caters more towards Travis and Hann.

The highlight of the first set came in the improv-heavy second sandwich of the evening: Colorado Bluebird Sky > Rollover > Colorado Bluebird Sky. A nod to not only their home state, enveloping arguably their biggest tune, I was again impressed in the first hour-and-a half stanza that SCI was just as impressive musically – and again, I say FUN – as I had remembered. But, as we would see, the band was just getting started…

Set two picked up the energy set one ended with and really got cooking thanks in part to the finger picking of Nershi during Restless Wind. The line from that tune that is repeated throughout, “Roots Run Deep,” garnered some of the loudest cheers of the night, as that was also the name of the band’s current tour. It also, in my mind, signified that despite the differences of individuals and bands at points in their career, the greater good of music, as a whole, can conquer all when put aside. This night reaffirmed that for me in the world of Cheese.

The end of the evening also provided more fireworks and surprises, including an out-of-left field, reworked version of Radiohead’s National Anthem. Always one of my favorite aspects of SCI, it was great to hear a group that grew up in the bluegrass scene tackle a song that seemed to be so far outside of their comfort zone. The preceding Joyful Sound was possibly my favorite song of the night, as its simple lyrics sung by bassist Keith Moseley again made me smile, while the jam soared into the stratosphere. Ending the set with yet another snapshot, and possible nod to the future going forward, Can’t Stop Now, the band has not only signaled to fans old and new that they were back – and happier than ever judging by their interplay and smiles on their faces – but that this new balance of their old and newer styles could happily co-exist going forward – great news for any Cheese fan.

The encore was another concert staple, Way Back Home, and featured one more great musical journey and left the United Palace in high spirits as we filtered out into the streets of Spanish Harlem, having made the trek uptown well worth it. All in all, the evening’s show was a journey that summed up the past five years for String Cheese and has the band’s fans looking forward to the future.

12/03/2011 The United Palace – New York, NY

Set 1: This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody) > Rhum ‘N Zouc, Miss Brown’s Teahouse > Chameleon > Miss Brown’s Teahouse, Wheel Hoss, Sometimes A River, Colorado Bluebird Sky > Rollover > Colorado Bluebird Sky

Set 2: Let’s Go Outside, Restless Wind > On The Road, Betray The Dark > Drums, Joyful Sound > National Anthem > Bumpin’ Reel > Can’t Stop Now

Encore: Way Back Home

[via Friends of Cheese]

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