red lights


Classical cool meets
boisterous bluegrass

Edgar Meyer & Nickel Creek's Chris Thile
Dominican University's Lund Auditorium
River Forest, IL
Jan. 20, 2007
Chris Thile
Chris Thile
Edgar Meyer & Chris Thile
Edgar Meyer & Chris Thile

Story and photos by Andy Argyrakis

When Chris Thile last visited the Windy City, it was alongside his regular players in bluegrass-tinged roots rockers Nickel Creek at Lollapalooza 2006. While the intimate settings of Dominican University's Lund Auditorium was miles away from sharing that's festival stage with Wilco (both literally and figuratively), the stripped down environment allowed fans to see an entirely different side of the mandolin player. On his current instrumental tour, the twenty-five year old prodigy was joined by bassist Edgar Meyer, another heavy hitter in the bluegrass world, but also a staple of the contemporary classical scene. Meyer is known for several key collaborations, including a stint with Strength in Numbers (the progressive bluegrass band boasting Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, Bela Fleck, and Mark O'Connor), along with the incomparable Yo-Yo Ma.

As a result, the show drew everyone from scruffy indie rock appreciators to curious college kids to finely cultured adults, though the performers proved equally diverse throughout their two act jam session. "Bridal Veil Falls" and "The Farmer and the Duck" were part of the pair's opening suite, kicking off with a serious, sophisticated dynamic and turning slightly more casual and carefree. Though the first few numbers were performed in silence, Thile broke the ice to introduce "Any Color I Want." Meyer eventually interrupted and teased his partner about being hard to work with, making it clear playfulness favored pretentiousness.

The comically titled "Please Don't Feed the Bear" pitted Thile's fast action strums with Meyer's thick thumps, though the duo also reeled in the relaxed attitude to showcase their traditional chops with a medley of Bach compositions. After an intermission, they returned to contemporary contexts to reveal "This Is the Pig," which was a soloing pinnacle for Thile who exploded with a brigade of fiery licks. "I Wasn't Talking To You" was also planted in the present, bearing a familiar resemblance Fleck and earning a delightful response from faithful in the process.

Another reference to Bach coupled with the sauntering "Cassandra's Waltz" drew out Meyer's precise attention to detail, after which he wiped down the bass strings and re-tuned for the finale. That farewell song was the oddly titled "F# Slow, Fast, Slow," which took the exact direction as its moniker implies. The piece was driven by Thile, who nestled into a tightly knitted stroll, then exploded with impressive abandon, only to re-dial down the arrangement to a soothing conclusion. That type of transition and the rest of the performance's spontaneity might not have pleased purists, but it allowed listeners from many musical tastes to unite without the high brow backlash or stuck up attitudes.
Edgar Meyer
Edgar Meyer
Edgar Meyer & Chris Thile
Edgar Meyer & Chris Thile

What Do You Think?



City & State:

e mail:

Here's Your Chance to.... Respond!

Your feedback will be featured on
Rant or Rave within 24 hours.

Return to Reviews
Return to Menu