As exciting as it is learning about early Billy Strings shows and imagining those small crowds taking in such big moments, to understand Billy Strings Halloween shows has grown to mean experiencing the present larger-than-life events and dreaming about what Billy and his team could possibly do to top themselves the next year.
For three nights in 2021, Billy’s team and the band transported an arena of costumed fans down the yellow brick road and into new Halloween terrain for Billy—in particular the large screen, special effects and coordination of songs with the movie/story on a much larger scale.
Welcoming numerous musical guests—also in full Wizard of Oz costumes—and donning various electric guitars, Strings also led the artists on stage through a journey of familiar originals and covers but also many interesting debuts e.g. “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” “Brain Damage,” “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” and many more.
In many ways the mystery behind what songs the band will interpret as part of their annual theme and in turn debut during Halloween has become an integral part of the Billy Strings Halloween experience. So have the theatrics that build on the music.
“Billy Strings set himself up for the slam dunk of encoring with a debut of Elton John’s ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.’ As cannons shot smoke like that of a rushing Geiser, balloons the color of the Emerald City dropped from the ceiling,” Live for Live Music wrote in their 2021 Billy Oz review.
Like that famous tornado and the ensuing rainbow, those three nights in Asheville took fans on a musical experience that left many longing for more live show experiences with Billy and then even more fans daydreaming about what this matured artist has planned next.
That question was answered as Strings prepared in 2022 to lead everyone through Middle Earth and the fanciful mind of J.R.R. Tolkien. And somehow Billy’s team and his playing and leadership seemed to once again be universally well-received.
“Billy Strings may have taken the Metallica leader’s crown with his three-night Lord of the Rings-inspired North Carolina residency, which culminated earlier this week on October 31,” Guitar World wrote Nov. 3.
The review from Guitar World seemed appropriate as 2022 also saw Billy really dive deeper into his electric guitar, with the likes of Sabbath, Floyd, Zeppelin and Hendrix. Accompanying these face-melting Classic Rock debuts, was the extravagance of team Billy transforming the Asheville arena into Middle Earth.
And within that back drop costumed fans in attendance and streaming fans at home were privy to a band Relix magazine noted was amid an already-hot fall tour.
“Musically the band is hitting an astonishing peak. It is a combination of their depth in catalog, precision, rhythm, and a guitar hero frontman that has put them in a league of their own,” Relix wrote in their 2022 Halloween review.
With a musical costume of covers, a tapestry of friends and guests and of course an arena full of adoring fans, it’s no wonder Billy’s Halloween shows electrify audiences and keep fans wondering what could be next and how the previous year could ever be topped.
And in part 3 of “Billy & Halloween”: the Van Andel Scramble (coming soon).