LIVE: Chris Thile & Edgar Meyer @ Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, 10/11/14


Review by Bokonon

Chris Thile has eight strings. Edgar Meyer has four. That doesn’t mean Thile is twice as good, or that Meyer has to work twice as hard. It just means they rock, good lord, they rock. In a classical way. In a new acoustic way. In, damn it, just about every way.

Thile and Meyer brought their thing to the Troy Saving Bank Music Hall mid-month and summarily destroyed the minds of hundreds of helpless people who simply wanted to hear some tunes. Mind you, many of these helpless hundreds were musicians themselves, or so they thought. They left in knee pants.

It’s not Italian jazz or speedmetal. It’s not the Great Kat, Yngwie Malmsteen or even Paganini. Thile and Meyer can apply the speed, but that’s not the only trick in the bag.

Ritchie Blackmore’s solo on “Highway Star.” That’s what we’re talking about. Follow? It’s a Bach situation.

The gents did in fact get their Bach up, but also borrowed liberally from a new disc, titled Bass & Mandolin. Four strings, eight strings. Much of the evening’s humor came from the titling of songs on the album. Stuff like “Monkey Actually,” “Why Only One?” and “It’s Dark In Here.”

But all of the business came from the compositions, the strings, the fingers, the minds themselves. They’re both quite good, it turns out.

One half-improvised tune was titled by the audience, with Thile choosing “Hashtag Epicactus” as Troy’s contribution to the duo’s road lore (as opposed to his well-rode Loar).

The thing is here, even after many, many years of the smithing and riffing, words don’t do real justice to the accomplishments of Meyer and Thile. I was on the fence for a long time, but after seeing the latter many times in the past few years — solo, with Michael Daves, with Goat Rodeo, with Nickel Creek — I understand he is the Zen master. I’ve seen Miles Davis. I’ve seen Chuck Berry. I’ve seen Chris Thile.

If you weren’t there, I can’t tell you anything.

Greg Haymes’ review at The Times Union
Excerpt from David Singer’s review at The Daily Gazette: “It takes considerable talent or courage for a mandolin and bass duet to play alone in the ultra-acoustically sensitive venue of Troy Savings Bank Music Hall with no other sounds to hide behind. It is an unforgiving, scrutinizing environment with little room for error and no room for insincerity. For Chris Thile and Edgar Meyer Friday night, it was all talent and genuine playing. And it took some courage to start the show with an intensely soft, subtle, slow song — no ice-breaker. Meyer’s bass playing and Thile’s mandolin were so subtle, so mellow at times that you wondered at the beginning how they would pull off an entire show. But they did. They played wonderfully as a duet, trading turns at melody, overlapping parts, getting intimate, and connecting with the crowd. There was razzle dazzle for sure — both are amazing on their instruments — but the emphasis was always on the song first. The emphasis was also on the interplay of the duet — in fact, there were no individual spotlights.”

NOTE: Next up on the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall’s stage is another forward-thinking acoustic music twosome – the brilliant husband-and-wife banjo duo of Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn at 8pm on Friday (October 24). Tickets are $25, $34 & $42.

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