Béla Fleck
All Photos: Sachyn Mital

A Mighty Bluegrass Heart with Béla Fleck at Carnegie Hall

Béla Fleck is taking his latest album, My Bluegrass Heart, on tour alongside some of the best bluegrass musicians on the planet.

Carnegie Hall isn’t the typical venue where people waiting for a show would be susceptible to a contact high or offered hits of whippets. But on 9th January was that rare evening when Béla Fleck brought a contingent of all-star musicians to perform songs from his latest record, My Bluegrass Heart. Two nights after a similar show at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Fleck’s uber-talented New York City rotation grew to include Tony Trischka and Chris Thile alongside Sam Bush, Michael Cleveland, Jerry Douglas, Stuart Duncan, Sierra Hull, Edgar Meyer, Justin Moses, Mark Schatz, Billy Strings, Bryan Sutton and Molly Tuttle. 

Bela Fleck

Fleck kicked off the show with “Blue Mountain Hop” and “Vertigo” alongside Douglas, Edgar, Sutton, and Duncan before a switch brought out Tuttle, Hull, and Cleveland for “Hug Point”. As the cast of musicians rotated throughout the two-plus-hour night, applause was showered upon them. It seemed like no one got more than Billy Strings ahead of the performance of “Us Chickens” but Fleck jokingly declared, “That’s right, it’s Stuart Duncan”. Fleck’s humor continued as he noted that the group “spent a lot of time trying to reach the artistic point where we can sound like chickens”. Later on, as Douglas hammed it up for the audience, Fleck proclaimed that people were seeing the famed “dobrisicus narcissus”. 

Béla Fleck

Perhaps the most awe-inspiring collaboration was Fleck’s duet with Thile, “Psalm 136”. The comrades-in-strings’ antics grew as they weaved their intricate playing back and forth. Afterward, a grinning Fleck joked that maybe they should do that again while Thile demonstrated his wit. Later, while Thile’s tuning momentarily paused the show, he professed, “I have more strings than they do.” Unfortunately, he only continued with the group for two more songs, including the frenetic “Slippery Eel” (which at least for a moment reflected Fleck’s “New South Africa”). Still, it was a treat to have him at all since he hadn’t performed at the Nashville show. 

bela fleck

Fleck and the musicians explored bluegrass’ traditional and “other” realms as the evening continued. The dynamics changed even further during the encore as they played a few songs with vocals, including “Tennessee” featuring Strings and Tuttle sharing harmonies. For the finale, the group performed a wild “Whitewater” where every musician took a solo culminating in a rapturous standing ovation from the audience. 

The My Bluegrass Heart tour begins again at the end of March.

bela fleck

SETLIST

Blue Mountain Hop
Vertigo
Hug Point
Round Rock
Us Chickens
Tentacle Dragon
Our Little Secret
Strider
Psalm 136
Charm School
Slippery Eel
Hunter’s Moon
Baptist Pumpkin Farm
Boulderdash
Martha White Flour
Tennessee (I Hear You Calling Me)
Little Cabin Home on the Hill
Whitewater

Bela Fleck

Musicians (alphabetical):

Sam Bush (mandolin)
Michael Cleveland (fiddle)
Jerry Douglas (dobro)
Stuart Duncan (fiddle)
Béla Fleck (banjo)
Sierra Hull (mandolin)
Edgar Meyer (upright bass)
Justin Moses (dobro, fiddle, and banjo)
Mark Schatz (upright bass)
Billy Strings (guitar)
Bryan Sutton (guitar)
Chris Thile (mandolin)
Tony Trischka (banjo)
Molly Tuttle (guitar)

Bela Fleck
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