Photo Credit: Christoper Morley

Last night, Feb. 23, Music City welcomed Billy Strings with open arms as he returned to his hometown for the first of a trio of shows. Revisiting series staged on Feb. 24-26 of last year, the artist made his first stop at the storied Bridgestone Arena with two sets and 26 tracks of covers and originals. On night one, Strings sought to “blow the roof off of Bridgestone,” per Billboard, and did just that with surprise guest appearance from the legendary Belá Fleck, who joined on stage for several songs in the second set.

Strings kicked off the show with “Red Daisy,” the bluegrass classic “Red Rocking Chair” and John Hartford’s “All Fall Down” interspersed within a selection of originals. At the set’s midpoint, Strings invited collaboration from Mickey Raphael, the established harmonica player renowned for his work in Willie Nelson’s band, who joined the guitar virtuoso for a treatment of Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies” and “California Sober,” Strings’ 2023 collaboration with nelson released just prior to his 90th birthday. Strings then assumed the spotlight solo for “Catch & Release,” before progressing through three more songs to end the first set with a stirring solo a capella rendition of The Doc Watson Family’s “And Am I Born to Die?”

Giving a shock to the arena audience, the second set began with a solo song from Belá Fleck, who performed his own “Jazz Odyssey” before joining Strings for a duet of Doc Watson’s “Groundhog.” Fleck and Strings then led the band through Fleck’s “Boulderdash,” George Gershwin’s moving Porgy and Bess aria “Summertime” and “John Hardy” before parting ways after “Seven Weeks in County,” the second staging of a new offering from Strings that also featured Raphael on harmonica. After this staggering run, Strings moved through five more songs before calling up Fleck and Raphael one more time for The Stanley Brothers’ standard “Harbor of Love” and Keith Allison’s “Freeborn Man” to close the show.

Strings will perform at the Bridgestone Arena again tonight before moving on to Nashville, Tenn,’s Ryman Auditorium–that hallowed hall of roots history–on Feb. 25. Next, the artist will head south for two nights at Atlanta’s State Farm Arena on March 1-2 before his beginning 14-stop spring tour in April. For tickets and more information on upcoming performances, visit Read on for Friday’s complete setlist.

Billy Strings
Bridgestone Arena – Nashville, Tenn.

Set I: Red Daisy, Hellbender, Red Rocking Chair*, Escanaba, All Fall Down+, In the Clear, Blue Skies^%, California Sober%, Catch & Release$, Crawdad Song*$, Hide and Seek, Come Down the Mountain Katie Daly*, And Am I Born to Die?@
Set II: Jazz Odyssey!>, Groundhog#>, Boulderdash!>, Summertime&>, John Hardy*>, Seven Weeks in County>%, Cabin Song, Love Like Me, Thunder~, If Your Hair’s Too Long (There’s Sin in Your Heart)*, Freedom, Harbor of Love`>%, Freeborn Man->%

* Traditional cover
+ John Hartford cover
^ Irving Berlin cover
% with Mickey Raphael
$ Billy solo
@ The Doc Watson Family cover
! Béla Fleck cover
> w/ Béla Fleck
# Doc Watson cover
& George Gershwin cover
~ Robert Hunter cover
` The Stanley Brothers cover
– Keith Allison cover