It’s not every year that a gig lands on your birthday, especially not one this good. ‘Rockgrass’ maestros Hayseed Dixie were back for a mammoth UK tour with a riotous set of rock classics and a handful of original gems. Their energetic live shows and relentless touring have earned the quartet quite a reputation, and this performance more than lived up to it.
For those who are unaware, Hayseed Dixie made their name playing classic rock tunes with a bluegrass twist. This ingenious combination has put ‘rockgrass’ in the musical dictionary, and, with some help from a few comic originals, has fuelled 10 albums and close to 1,000 shows worldwide.
I should first mention support act Tom Copson; the Cambridge-born singer-songwriter charged with the thankless task of warming up the stage won over the crowd with his original blend of acoustic folk. With two songs performed on an unusual looking omnichord and a Beatles cover thrown in for good measure, this is an artist I would recommend seeing if you have the chance.
The biggest cheers, though, were undoubtedly for Hayseed Dixie, who started the show by playing their 2001 album A Hillbilly Tribute to ACDC in its entirety. The band charged through classics such as ‘Highway to Hell’ and ‘Back in Black’ as the country groove grew and the atmosphere increased. Frontman Barley Scotch (aka John Wheeler) had lost none of his between-song charm, mixing anecdotes with impressions that would be well received at a stand-up night.
It is impossible not to be blown away by the band’s technical brilliance on banjo, mandolin and fiddle alike, especially considering the amount of beer they notoriously get through. After 13 songs Wheeler started taking audience requests, and the likes ‘Ace of Spades’, ‘War Pigs’ and ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ are all masterfully executed. Even better are the renditions of Dixie-originals such as ‘Corn Liquor’ and cult classic ‘I’m Keeping Your Poop’.
Their epic set ends with a cover of Pink Floyd classic ‘Comfortably Numb’. After the show the whole band came into the venue to chat and take pictures with fans. From a short conversation it was clear that over 12 years of touring had not quenched Wheelers’ thirst for rockgrass. If every gig of the tour is like this one, then the love affair between Hayseed Dixie and the UK looks set to continue.