I was so lucky to see mandolin player extraordinaire Chris Thile in concert at my favorite venue, Largo at the Coronet, on Sunday, March 27, 2016. I am not going to go into lengthy details about Chris other than to mention I have seen him play a few times before with Nickel Creek, with the Punch Brothers, and as a soloist. Would I be talking him up too much if I said his gifts on the mandolin are unparalleled?
How do you warm up an audience for one of the foremost music geniuses of our time? Apparently, with feats of prestidigitation and telepathy. Derek Hughes brought his comedic magic talents to the stage, performing his guess the color of the crayon trick, card tricks, and the alphabet block mind reading stunt with a flourish of humor and a knack for working the crowd. When Derek was finished, Chris appeared briefly on stage to much applause, but he was only there to introduce the next guest. Zach Galifianakis made a surprise appearance to do a stand-up comedy routine. He was funny and the crowd appreciated him, but he seemed a little nervous during his set.
Here are the selections of music that Chris Thile chose to play:
- “Here and Heaven” — from The Goat Rodeo Sessions
- “Rabbit in a Log” — from Sleep with One Eye Open, Chris called this “a minimalist thing — an experimentation with nearly perfect fifths.” It was his acknowledgement of the show being on Easter.
- “Song for a Young Queen” — from Not All Who Wander Are Lost, he introduced it by saying, “Almost all musicians go through a Natalie Portman stage” and how he was inspired to write this song when he first saw her photo in a magazine when he was a teenager and Star Wars Episode 1 was coming out.
- “Moonshiner” from Ahoy!
- “If You’re Gonna Leave Me” –“set me up with one of your friends”
- “Daughter of Eve” — Chris told of his dramatic interpretation of the Adam and Eve story that he thought might be suitable for “Garden of Eden Fan Fiction”
- “Magnet” from The Phosphorescent Blues
- “Jealous of the Moon” — from Nickel Creek’s album Why Should the Fire Die?
- Bach’s Sonata No. 2 in A minor for solo violin — from his album Bach Sonatas & Partitas, Vol. 1 He played all four parts– Grave, Fuga, Andante, Allegro — taking a brief (well-deserved) break in the middle.
- “My Oh My” — from The Phosphorescent Blues. As he concluded his set, he said, “You have made it through a truly reprehensible amount of mandolin playing!” Indeed, but I was riveted for every single minute.
- “Songs on the Mandolin” — he played his self-referential tune about taking his mandolin along with him on a date. I’ve used a lyric from this song for the title of this blog post, because it sums up Chris perfectly.
For the encore, Chris came out right to the edge of the stage and asked for a request. There were lots of shouts from the audience but he zeroed in on “This is the Song” from the Punch Brothers’ album Antifogmatic. This slower, moody tune was a fitting way to pluck us all down from our clouds and slowly bring us back into reality. If you ever get a chance to see Chris play live, you must take it! The experience is transcendent.