The band emerged from the side of the stage to an already energetic crowd. Following a quick tune-up and a nod to Atlanta, Yonder sped into “No Expectations”. Although it is a number that I frequently see, this tune is an excellent opportunity for Jeff to showcase his talent. The song was very well played despite being a frequent set opener, but proved to be ineffective at jumpstarting a band that had just delivered two huge shows in Asheville the nights previous. Sadly, after the jammed out opening, the brakes were quickly applied. Though songs were solidly played, the energy behind them seemed to be lacking, and the band looked a little tired. Yonder progressed quickly through standard versions of “Rain Still Falls”, “Naughty Sweetie”, “East Nashville Easter”, and “How Bout You” before arriving at a duo of bluegrass tunes that I’d take at every show, “Big Spike Hammer” and “Hit Parade Of Love”. Although the crowd was energized from the first note, it wasn’t until somewhere between “Polly Put the Kettle On” and “Rambler’s Anthem”, that Yonder finally hit a stride; by this time though we were already two thirds of the way through the first set. In an attempt to maintain some of the momentum gained toward the end of the set, Yonder rounded it out with a rowdy “Boatman”, tiding the audience over through the break.
Yonder returned to a partying crowd and picked up with a quick, “Fastball”. I love this banjo number, especially from a broken-handed banjo player. Despite a fast opening, the lack of energy and emotion seemed to carry over from the first set. This did change, however. It almost seemed as though a switch was thrown mid-way through the second set. The crowd had been smitten with the band the entire night, however, when Yonder went into “Come Together”, the place went absolutely nuts. “Casualty” was out of this world, and contained an exceptional jam that was a little on the exploratory side. Exploration with the music is something that I wish Yonder would start to consider and infuse into their live performances. “Out Of The Blue” continued to instill energy into the band leading to Ben’s drop into a big “Kentucky Mandolin”. This tune really highlights his technical playing skills and ability to shift the direction of the music, and a show. I said the same thing about the great “Kentucky Mandolin” played in Nashville earlier on tour. Kudos to Ben for absolutely destroying this song everywhere he goes. In my eyes, it was at this point the show ended and something new started.
What came next was nothing short of an earful, and contained some of the best playing that I’ve heard at any of the 55 shows I’ve attended. “Little Maggie” is always a treat, and a song that I infrequently get to hear. Knowing that something will likely be sandwiched between this favorite always leads to anticipation. The expectancy culminated in a giant “Snow On The Pines”, which moved into an unforeseen “Up On The Hill Where They Do The Boogie”. I liked the placement of this song and the segue into a lively “King Eb”; Jeff, providing the animation as always. Although there may be a liberal use of the “<” symbol, I think it is inarguable that when a Yonder fan sees something like, “Little Maggie > Snow On The Pines > Up On The Hill Where They Do The Boogie > King Ebeneezer > Snow On The Pines > Little Maggie”, they know something big went down. That was definitely the case on this Saturday night at The Tabernacle. The double encore of “Tear Down the Grand Ol Opry” and “Sideshow Blues” rounded out an enjoyable evening in Atlanta, and left a giant smile plastered on my face.
This was an amazing evening full of great music and fantastic people. In my stint of seeing Yonder I’ve come to notice what the band is drinking on stage. If it’s water or tea, you might end up with choppy setlist. If it’s alcohol, then you might need to hold onto your shoes. Atlanta was a water night. I’m not criticizing the musical quality of the show so much as I am the energy and flow. I thought Atlanta was fun, but lacked a lot of the liveliness and excitement that I’ve come to expect out of Yonder Mountain. Looking back to what occurred in Asheville, I can understand why this might have been the case. That being said, Yonder has been playing exceptionally well lately, delivering some of the most consistent music I’ve heard out of this band. The songs and the movement between solos are more polished (i.e., Adam is a flatpicking machine). One thing is for certain, Yonder has plenty of fuel left in the tank and a loyal following; keep on going!
Written by Jeff Green
|Yonder Mountain String Band|
2/12/11 The Tabernacle, Atlanta, GA
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