I went to see Sierra Hull last night at the Capitol Theater here in Clearwater Florida. I was kind of embarrassed and felt a little sad for her because we didn’t give her a very good turn out as the theater was only half full. But she didn’t let that phase her and she delivered great show.
The lights dimmed and without any introduction, Sierra walked onto stage and explained that her opening act wasn’t with her, however her husband Justin Moses had come to visit her for a few days during her winter tour, so she enlisted him and together they were going to be the opening act. Wow, what a bonus; Justin is an amazing multi-instrumentalist and 2018 IBMA dobro player of the year. They opened with a couple of Ralph Stanley tunes and wrapped up the 25 minute act with a mando duet that brought us all to our feet. I had never heard him sing before; he has a high pitched voice and sounds great with Sierra. I’ve never seen an artist actually do an opening act for their self.
After a break, Sierra returned to the stage with Justin on violin, Mike S??? (someone help me out) on electric guitar and Geoff Saunders on Stand up bass. Although Sierra has bluegrass roots and during a band break in the middle of the main show she did a bluegrass medley with suggestions from the audience, this was not a bluegrass show. She did some songs from her albums but much of it was new material yet to be released. It’s sort of an eclectic beatnik jazz something that I can’t quite put my finger on. I didn’t know what to make of it at first but I really started digging it.
During several songs I found myself somewhat entranced, as were others I think. Sometimes, when a song was over, it seemed we all just sat there and oooed and ahhhed or sighed or just just looked at each other and smiled before we realized now might be a good time to applaud. I could hear others around me talking before the show and during the break and many of them were pickers of one sort or another, so a loyal appreciative audience may have accounted for some of that reaction. She seemed to thrive on it. Some in the audience were vocal and at times, it was just a conversation going on between Sierra and whoever.
She did a lovely rendition of Mad World with her Fender electric 5-string mandocaster and with that sweet haunting voice of hers, well that’s the best version of that song I’ve ever heard.
The band members were wonderful. Justin was not ripp’n it and the strings weren’t on fire or anything rather most of it was slow and soft and I was amazed at how much control he has over his instrument and how he played to compliment the music, not to steal from it. Whew, just realizing I could use a cigarette right about now. Now Geoff is a real standout stand up bass player, hands down (thought that one up all by myself). Grammy Award winner apparently and it showed. I’ve never seen anyone play electric guitar bare finger pick style like Mike. He used his thumb and it was like his pointer and index fingers were fused together. I couldn’t tell if he was catching two strings or just one though. It was almost like a Doc Watson style but jazzy. A real cool cat; I just wish I knew his last name.
I hung around after the show and Sierra came out to chat and she was real sweet with everyone giving them pics and autographs and sharing a laugh. She remembered some of the folks from last year’s show so that was neat and she gave extra attention to a little girl about eight or so. I met her and talked with her for a minute or so. I apologized for the turn out and asked if it was like this last year and she said yeah. I told her maybe in five years we’ll fill the place up. She signed my BanjoBen hat, because I guess that’s the thing I’m collecting signatures on now, so that was neat.
Really a nice experience. I love bluegrass and I went expecting a bluegrass show but I guess something I enjoy even more is being pleasantly surprised.