Photo by Sachyn Mitall
Béla Fleck brought his all-star cast to New York’s Carnegie Hall to perform songs off his Grammy-nominated album My Bluegrass Heart on Saturday, Jan. 9. The performance featured 12 of Fleck’s contemporaries and friends, many of whom were featured on the record and had recently joined him at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium.
The show opened with Sam Bush (mandolin), Jerry Douglas (dobro), Stuart Duncan (fiddle), Bryan Sutton (guitar), Edgar Meyer (upright bass) and Fleck (banjo) for “Blue Mountain Hop,” off of Fleck’s 1999 LP The Bluegrass Sessions: Tales from the Acoustic Planet, Vol. 2, and served as an homage to his extensive and influential career.
The sextet then moved on to fresh material from My Bluegrass Heart with “Vertigo.” Molly Tuttle and Sierra Hull then took the stage on guitar and mandolin, respectively, for their song “Hug Point,” along with Michael Cleveland on fiddle and Mark Schatz on upright bass. Next, Sutton, Bush, Meyer, and Douglas joined Cleveland and Fleck on fiddle for “Round Rock.”
“Carnegie Hall was one of the most exciting musical experiences of my life. The incredible cast of musicians really brought it home and played with so much heart, it’s hard to comprehend,” Fleck said of the performance. “I couldn’t be more proud of my bluegrass community. Also, the incredible hometown crowd gave us so much love and inspiration that everyone is still floating a great inches off the ground.”
Next, Billy Strings joined on stage to show off with Fleck, Meyer, Duncan, Bush and Douglas on “Us Chickens,” Sutton joined them for “Tentacle Dragon.” Fans applauded as the musicians rejoined one another on and off stage. Fleck continued to welcome some of the best string musicians in the world, including mandolinist Chris Thile who plucked his way through “Psalm 136,” multi-instrumentalist Justin Moses on “Hunter’s Moon” and banjoist Tony Trischka who joined the ensemble on set closer “Boulderdash.” Thile was notably absent from the Nashville show and appropriately so was his collaboration with Fleck, “Psalm 136.”
The cast of musicians returned to the stage for a five-song encore. They opened with “The Martha White Theme,” displaying what dozen of master string musicians can do all at once. Next, they played New Grass Revival‘s “When The Storm Is Over,” featuring Bush, Hull, Moses, Sutton, Meyer, Duncan and Douglas, followed by a cover of Bill Monroe‘s “Dark as the Night.” Strings then led the traditional “Tennessee (I Hear You Calling Me)” before moving on to “Back to the Old Home” with Hull and Moses on vocals. They finished with “Whitewater,” which started with Hull and Fleck but grew in both volume and complexity as the entire ensemble joined to close the show.
Fleck discusses the origins and development of My Bluegrass Heart in this recent Relix interview.
Béla Fleck’s My Bluegrass Heart
Carnegie Hall – New York, NY
Jan. 9, 2021
Set: Blue Mountain Hop, Vertigo, Hug Point, Round Rock, Us Chickens, Tentacle Dragon, Our Little Secret, Strider, Psalm 136, Charm School, Hunter’s Moon, Baptist Pumpkin, Boulderdash
Enc: The Martha White Theme, When The Storm Is Over, Dark as the Night, Back to the Old Home, Whitewater
Béla Fleck, Banjo
Sam Bush, Mandolin
Michael Cleveland, Fiddle
Jerry Douglas, Dobro
Stuart Duncan, Fiddle
Sierra Hull, Mandolin
Edgar Meyer, Upright Bass
Justin Moses, Dobro, Fiddle, Banjo
Mark Schatz, Upright Bass
Billy Strings, Acoustic Guitar
Bryan Sutton, Acoustic Guitar
Chris Thile, Mandolin
Tony Trischka, Banjo
Molly Tuttle, Acoustic Guitar