The String Cheese Incident played at the recently refurbished Lyric Opera House in Baltimore last Wednesday, the fifth show in a fourteen show tour. It’s the first real Cheese tour since their hiatus in 2007. They have been performing sporadically at special engagements, like Winter Carnival last March and Hulaween last Halloween, but this is the first time in a long time that they’ve been officially “on the road”. It doesn’t appear that the time off has taken a toll on their performance. On the contrary, the break may have given them time to recharge their collective batteries and even write several new tunes.
The show started off with the instrumental, Lonesome Fiddle Blues. This song had a haunting feeling, with low blue lights on the stage, not highlighting anyone. Michael Kang did double-duty, playing the violin at times with his electric mandolin slung across his back. The second tune was Smile, featuring guitarist Billy Nershi on vocals, an appropriate song I thought as I looked around the crowd; nothing but smiles. This was followed by MLT, another instrumental with a Brazilian samba flavor, showing off some great licks by pianist and master-brewer Kyle Hollingsworth. The next song, Give Me the Love, slowed things down a little and gave Kang an opportunity to show off his vocal range. This went into Kyle’s tune, Let’s Go Outside, which made its first appearance at the final night of Winter Carnival on March 12, earlier this year. The first set closed out with Come as You Are > Black Clouds.
The second set opened up with Kyle’s tune, Eye Know Why and then my favorite and first Cheese Song I ever heard, Outside and Inside. This segued into Whiskey Before Breakfast, a very bluegrassy song, with Kang on the fiddle. Next up was a relatively new song, Brand New Start, sung by the bass player Keith Moseley. When I listened to the lyrics I got this optimistic feeling that maybe the Cheese are back to regular touring, and this current tour is … like a brand new start of something… Michael Kang played his song Black and White next, complete with some “scat” style singing. The final song of the second set was an almost 16 minute Big Shoes, which went through several EOTO-esque transformations and rhythm changes. The encore was Kyle’s tune, Rosie, which was making its second appearance this tour.
All in all, the incident was a good one. The shows on this tour are different than the events that the Cheese have been playing in recent years. There were no aerial acrobats or hula dancers on stage, and they’re a little shorter. It’s been interesting following the setlists from the previous shows and seeing how large SCI’s repertoire is. This was the fifth show, a total of 77 songs played, and there have only been three songs duplicated. The song selection of each show seems to be well thought out, and gives each band member an opportunity to show their stuff individually as well as how they fit into the group. The rest of the tour will take the band to New York, Boston, Pittsburg, then on to St. Louis and three nights in Chicago to wrap up the tour and the year. We’ll have to see what 2012 as in store for the String Cheese Incident. Will we see some more touring, or will it be limited to festivals, like Bonnaroo and Electric Forest? Here’s to wishing for SCI 2.0 and a Brand New Start.