Saw Sam a couple of weeks ago at the great Tacoma Winterfest. Although I know Sam as one of the great mandolinist of our generation, and have heard and seen him (via cd and vcr, I mean) in bluegrass and newgrass settings, I do not have his solo cds, so I really didn't know what to expect.
I did expect that it would be hard to get good seats close up to the stage like I like them... but read on.
The band included drums and a very loud auditorium- filling bass. Sam opened on a resonator mando, highly amplified, played with a slide. The long opening rambling piece included something that sounded like the Star Spangled Banner (or was It God Bless America?) in the style of Jimmi.
After that first piece, about 15% of the audience got up and left. After the second piece, about other 15% left. Am I exaggerating? If you were there, please correct me. All I know, I was able to move up about thirty rows and get great seats!
Sam played for two hours straight! Whatever one thinks of his music, I certainly appreciate the time he spent with until, what, about 1 AM?
IN the course of the set, Sam played on what I guess is his regular mando (the one his signature model is based upon) stronly amplified. He did at least one long piece with another mando with high distortion and a wah wah pedal!
So is it bluegrass? Of course not. But who cares! Sam Bush is Sam Bush: a genius with a unique musical personality which includes the need to constantly explore new territory. Like late Beethoven, Stravinsky, Schoenberg. If you're not an explorer and only want to hear what's been done before (not that there's anything wrong with that!), than his music #will not be to your taste. #But if you want to see a genius at work, here it is. On stage, he becomes totally one with the music, totally involved. It is not only a sound but a sight to behold.
And for those who walked out, first I would like to thank you for the great seats. Second I would like to let you know that if you had just a little patience (ha, ha), you would have heard Sam do two Monroe numbers as his encore.
By the way, Sam also has a great sense of humor and raport with the audience.