Also posted this in Other Stuff, since it seems barely anyone bothers with the Reviews folders these days...
First off, I'm rather ashamed to admit it, but when I first heard about this show I knew absolutely zilch about Bill Evans, which seemed odd given that he'd played with Miles Davis in the early 80s and played with Mahavishnu/McLaughlin and other musicians whom I follow or have followed (to some degree).
Anyway, I realized that a show with someone of this pedigree that included Steve Kimock, Tim Carbone, and Jeff Pevar was going to be a damned good show - especially for a paltry $23 at Sweetwater. C'mon!! That's a damned fine deal!
I'm not going to provide a setlist here, because I don't know the names of most of the tunes they played, but that's not important. Besides some of the tunes off Evans' Soulgrass' new CD (Dragonfly), they did play The Band's "The Weight." There might have been another tune or two with which I was familiar, but I can't recall at the moment.
Since I didn't know just about all of the material, I can only say that this lineup of Soulgrass (it seems Evans enlists various guest musicians to be part of the Soulgrass family as he tours to various places) was SMOKING!!! From the first notes of Evans' sax during the opening song, until the last notes of the second encore (pretty sure there were two songs), this band ripped it. Bill just came out jumping, and then the rest of the band followed suit. The things that struck me most about this lineup were how totally in-synch Bill, Tim and Jeff were - it was like these guys have played together for years - and how damned good Jeff Pevar is!! Honestly, I know he'd played with Phil way back in 2000 or so (unfortunately didn't see that lineup), and has played with many other famous musicians (CSN at the top of the list), but I didn't know how much of a MONSTER this guy is! Honestly, I thought Kimock would be the main guitar attraction here, but Pevar certainly held his own, and then some. He was probably the more central guitarist in this configuration, anyway. Not that I would ever knock Mr. Kimock - he had some raging solos and played his usual selection of guitars impeccably, for sure, but he wasn't quite as integral to the sound as was Pevar. Still, each of the musicians had his moment to shine, and they all didn't disappoint.
However, this band was great not just because of the "guest" musicians - the rest of the regular band is phenomenal as well. The banjo player - Ryan Cavanaugh - is kind of a Bela Fleck style jazz fusion meets bluegrass player, though seems to be a little more in the jazz rock/fusion vein, with perhaps a little less connection to traditional banjo music. His one major solo (couldn't name the tune, of course) was a barn-burner - some very cool blazing fast, rock & roll-infused riffs on the electric banjo. The drummer - Josh Dion - was another phenomenal musician who not only plays some pretty fantastic percussion, but is also the lead singer (and a damned good one). A couple of times I was blown away by the fact he sang so well while wailing away on some pretty complex rhythmic sections. The bass player seemed to be the one musician who didn't make much of an impression on me, despite a solo at one point. Honestly, given the caliber of most of the other musicians on stage, it wasn't all that surprising.
All in all, it was a marvelous night of music. The band played a solid two-hour set (including encores) and I definitely wanted more at the end, though I had no complaints.
As usual, the level of bar chatter, etc. at Sweetwater was quite a bit higher than it should be (especially during a couple of quiet solo sections -- sax and fiddle). Unfortunately, I had to shush some young hipsters at one point it was getting so bad, and they did seem to take it down several notches after that. However, once the band was rolling, the volume did get rather loud, so all the obnoxious chit-chat was thankfully drowned out.
After the show, Evans and Pevar were signing their new CDs, so I had to buy both of 'em (sucker, that I am). No, seriously, these guys were great, and this show was a bargain, so it was all money well-spent.
Oh, and I need to get a recording of this show as well (Charlie Miller - you out there??).
To sum it up: if Evans' Soulgrass plays in your area anytime soon - go see them at all costs!!!