Billy & The Kids at Red Rocks

Words & Photos by Kevin Kenly on July 21, 2021
Billy & The Kids at Red Rocks

This is a review of night two. Click here for a review of the first show.


The jamworld was still abuzz with the happenings of the Monday night Red Rocks show when Bill Kreutzmann’s beloved group Billy & The Kids took the stage Tuesday night ready for more action.

The band hit the ground running with an energized take on “Dear Mr. Fantasy,” sung by bluegrass virtuoso, Billy Strings. The group closed out the opening tune with the traditional Grateful Dead pairing of the Traffic cover with the conclusion of The Beatles’ “Hey Jude” refrain.

The group then played the Bob Weir sung “Cassidy” before the beloved “Jack Straw.” TAB sax player, James Casey then stepped to the plate for a cover of the often played JGB tune “My Sisters & Brothers,” before another surprise was announced to the audience.

After some playful ribbing from Tom Hamilton, bluegrass mandolin aficionado, Paul Hoffman from Greensky Bluegrass then joined the sextet for the three-pack of cowboy songs from the Dead’s songbook. With the special guest, the group played “Me & My Uncle,” Kristofferson penned “Mama Tried,” and then closed out the sit-in with the Workingman’s Dead classic, “Dire Wolf.”

The group then concluded the opening frame of their second and final show with an energetic and extended version of “Shakedown Street” that really got the crowd moving and grooving before setbreak.

Billy & The Kids opened set two with their debut cover of the Who’s “Join Together,” before launching into an enlightened take on “Franklin’s Tower.” After the crowd had sufficiently rolled away the dew, Billy Strings donned his traditional Thompson acoustic guitar for an astonishingly beautiful take on “To Lay Me Down.”

While this tune was a chance for the audience to catch its collective breath after the opening sequence, it did not serve as a speedbump for the set. The audience was listening along in a state of sheer bliss and reverence when the ensemble then went back to the JGB songbook with an exploratory “That’s What Love Will Make You Do” originally made famous by Little Milton, that featured some fiery keyboard runs by Aron Magner of the Disco Biscuits.

The group continued to swing for the fences with the incredible pairing of “Help on the Way” & “Slipknot” that closed out the Help, Slip, Frank segment that was played in a disjointed fashion, but still to the delight of the fans.

“The Music Never Stopped” came next and saw wonderful interplay from the entire group before Billy Strings returned to his trusty acoustic for the traditional “Peggy-O.” This heartfelt love song was a great opportunity for Strings to showcase his acoustic prowess before offering James Casey one last opportunity to front the band for another take on a Beatles tune.

Casey stepped up to the plate for a gorgeous rendition of “Dear Prudence” before Billy Strings returned to the mic to close out the second set with an awe-inspiring take on “Brokedown Palace.” Strings’ vocal abilities were put on full display and he truly sang his heart out on the set closer.

After a brief encore break, Kreutzmann returned to the stage, and like the previous evening, he once again had Thievery Corporation’s Jeff Franca in tow for an extended “Drums” before the full ensemble returned for a lengthy “Terrapin Station.” Tom Hamilton’s vocals and fretboard fireworks beyond exceeded the expectations of the audience, and while some thought it would be the endcap to two incredible days of music, the band had one more trick up their sleeves.

At the conclusion of “Terrapin Station” the band instead of taking their final bow launched into an energetic “I Know You Rider,” which closed out the iconic pairing from the night before’s “China Cat Sunflower” overture before they bid their farewell.

This left both those in attendance at Red Rocks as well as those watching from the comforts of their homes around the world in a state of frenzy as they had one last chance to take in the excitement and energy of this incredible group of musicians paying tribute to one of the greatest bands of all time.

While the group has been clear that there are no other expected tour dates, after getting the first chance to witness their musical stylings in a live setting, there is very little the jam community wants now more than a full-fledged tour, but whether or not that comes to fruition remains to be seen. All we can do now is fervently hope, and cherish the moments we have been given.

Set One (70:47): Dear Mr. Fantasy > Hey Jude, Cassidy > Jack Straw, My Sisters and Brothers, Me and My Uncle(1), Mama Tried(1), Dire Wolf(1), Shakedown Street

Set Two (127:37): Join Together, Franklin’s Tower, To Lay Me Down, That’s What Love Will Make You Do, Help on the Way > Slipknot > The Music Never Stopped, Peggy-O, Dear Prudence, Brokedown Palace

Encore: Drums(2) > Terrapin Station(2) >I Know You Rider(2)

(1) w/ Paul Hoffman (mandolin)

(2) w/ Jeff Franca (drums)