Review by Bokonon
Holy mother of God, Chris Thile can play the mandolin. With acts like the defunct Nickel Creek and the kinetic, brainy Punch Brothers, the skinny young man often gets way too up in his head, scraping the strings with intellect rather than his pick. But paired with NYC wildman Michael Daves, Thile reaches into his heart and under his belt, adding guts and grease to all that smarty pants music theory.
The result is explosive.
Last Wednesday, the Thile/Daves duo brought the bluegrass gospel to Hudson’s Club Helsinki, preaching heavily from the book of Bill Monroe, with passages from Jimmy Martin, the Louvin Brothers and Flatt & Scruggs.
The gentlemen like to drink, they like to laugh, and they like to play – wow, do they like to play. But the symbiosis is stone real. At one point when Daves realized he was out of rye, Thile poured some from his glass into the guitarist’s, who took a lusty snort. There were a few groans of ‘gross’ from the crowd, who missed the obvious generosity of spirits.
A few tunes later, though, the audience offered the same kind of love, cheering Daves as he went for a twining, climbing solo on an unrehearsed number and served up steamed clams amidst the beauty. Everyone in the room understood what was happening. Life. Invention. Improvisation.
Thile and Daves are brilliantly at the top of their game together and willing to actually challenge each other, even if it means blowing it in public. And that, my friend, is what makes music the bible.
“Fiddle Tune Request Time” is an important part of every Thile/Daves performance, and at Helsinki, as usual, they asked for requests and then knit together hot shit medleys of classic fingerbusters. “East Tennessee Blues” found them trading eights, driving the impossible energy of the night even higher, without, somehow, ever making it seem like they were showing off.
That they were able to achieve that kind of fire again and again is testament to their talent. They’ll be taking the music forward for a long, long time, God bless ‘em.
Those looking for a taste of Thile in a different, full-on supergroup context, can head to Crossgates Mall in Guilderland on Tuesday, January 31, when Regal Crossgates Stadium 18 will host a live broadcast of the Goat Rodeo Sessions (featuring Thile, Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan and Edgar Meyer) from Boston’s House of Blues.