The String Cheese Incident wrapped up their fall tour this weekend with two shows in New York City. As they march towards Hulaween, the Colorado Sextet brought four fiery sets to the Theater at Madison Square Garden that were jam-packed with tasteful covers, originals, and stellar improv.
Night one started off with “Can’t Stop Now” and “Got What He Wanted” before seguing into drums and bustin out “SKAT” (which has been renamed “Xai Xai”). The track, which was busted out during the Pittsburgh show on this tour, was followed by another lesser-played number, “Cottonmouth.” Throughout the two rare gems, the group locked into an energetic groove that was brought to a head when they covered Talking Heads’ “This Must Be The Place.” The ‘hi-oh’ sing-alongs were super loud as the New York crowd paid homage to one of the great NYC bands of all time. Set one rounded out with “Beautiful,” “Don’t Say,” and “Restless Wind.”
The second set was good, but probably the weakest of the two nights. “Just One Story” sandwiched the set of which all songs began with the letter ‘S.’ “Song In My Head,” “Sometimes A River,” “Sand Dollar,” “Stop Drop Roll,” “Shine” weren’t played with perfection, but the rambunctious crowd didn’t seem to mind a few blunders from the barefoot boys. “Shine” was particular heartfelt, as usual, and “Sand Dollar” is always a treat. After an “Outside and Inside” encore, night one came to a close: a good show that left room for a hell of a second night.
Saturday night in New York City is a beautiful thing. You can catch the energy by just riding around the subway, looking around at all the different people who are going to do awesome, weird things. Some dude has black lipstick on, some chick is wearing a neon fur vest. There are people from virtually every walk of life, and most of them are about to enjoy the peak of their weekend. For Cheese fans, the peak of the weekend came during a 3.5 hour, two set tour-closer that saw the band leaving nothing on the table.
“You bring it, we’ll bring it,” Kang said when he addressed the crowd at the beginning of the gig. A tour-closer in New York City – Madison Square Garden nevertheless – is the highest stage for an artist to take, even if that artist is from a mile high! While the show wasn’t sold out, an enthusiastic crowd filed into the seats as the band began with “Let’s Go Outside.” It didn’t take long for the surprises to begin to show, as the band segued into The Weeeknd’s #1 single “Can’t Feel My Face” before taking it into a jam and back into “Let’s Go Outside.” Usually the first song of the first song doesn’t yield that kind of surprise, but last night was hardly usual.
“MLT” followed and showcased some of the best jamming the band has played in quite some time (at least for these ear drums). It was spacey, jazzy, and locked in. The band was communicating well together and moving as one for the duration of the song, which stands as a top moment of the two-night stint. “Give Me the Love” and “Hotel Window” followed, and both were accentuated by epic solos from Michael Kang, who continues to be the spiritual leader of the band in the live setting. His solos dig a little deeper than the rest of the guys, and he’s truly capable of pulling out those venue-shaking applauses from the crowd. “Rosie” ended the set, transforming the Theater into a massive discotheque that would give any NYC club a run for its money.
Second set began with three of the longest, deepest tracks String Cheese has played in some time. “Texas,” “Howard,” and “Rivertrance” took up nearly an hour as the group stretched each moment into improvisational bliss. The band really displayed how they’re able to be a force in the jam world 20 years later with the front side of that second set, and we’ll highly recommend you take a listen to those tracks when they surface. “Live and Let Die” gave the crowd’s vocal chords a nice work out before ending things with “Colorado Bluebird Sky.” The band encored with Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” to give everyone one last chance to let it all out.
With Hulaween kicking off on Thursday, it’s great to see these guys delivering very quality sets. Night two was substantially better than night one, in my opinion anyways, but both were quality displays from a band that always has a surprise up their sleeve.
Setlists [via FriendsOfCheese.com]
10/23/2015 THEATER AT MADISON SQUARE GARDEN, NEW YORK, NY
Set One: Can’t Stop Now, Got What He Wanted > Drums1 Xai Xai, Cottonmouth > This Must Be The Place > Beautiful > Don’t Say > Restless Wind
Set Two: Just One Story > Drums1 > Song In My Head, Sometimes A River > Sand Dollar > Stop Drop Roll, Shine > Just One Story
Encore: Outside And Inside
1 with Aaron Johnston
10/24/2015 THEATER AT MADISON SQUARE GARDEN, NEW YORK, NY
Set One: Let’s Go Outside > I Can’t Feel My Face > Let’s Go Outside, MLT, Give Me the Love, Hotel Window, Piece of Mine, Black Clouds, Rosie
Set Two: Texas, Howard, Rivertrance, Sweet Spot, Way Back Home, Live and Let Die, Colorado Bluebird Sky
Encore: Ring of Fire