July 26, 2005
I caught the band last night on the Chicago stop (Schuba's) of their mini-tour, doing all of “Why Should The Fire Die,” followed by a mini-interview on the stage by the WXRT host, plus a few "encores" (Bombadil, This Side, Lighthouse, Trouble, Smoothie Song). The show was taped by WXRT for future broadcast, incidentally. It was terrific seeing them in a tiny club again (150 attendee capacity), and especially interesting was how much older (not geriatric, but plenty of folks in their 30s and 40s) the crowd was than what I've seen for a while. I didn't feel like a chaperone at the junior prom! Actually, I sorta did anyway, since Karen and I had our son Jake (12) with us. (He's been a Nickel Creek fan since, well, always, and he said "This was the best concert I've ever seen," and that includes his prior NC shows--I'm sure it helped that he's already heard the new CD a couple of dozen times.) I have to think that the older-skewed crowd was because WXRT has a very broad listenership, and the tickets were distributed by WXRT via random drawing of contest entrants. Also, the show (though a Tuesday night) was early (8-10), which also, I would guess, appealed to those of my demographic more than a late night set. But the rabid enthusiasm of the (standing) crowd was ageless.
Chris and Sara both told me, separately, that, though they clearly love the club, this turned out to be the toughest show so far of the tour, due to the idiosyncrasies of Schuba's monitor mix set-up. But from the audience vantage point, it was a joy. They were loose, relaxed, energetic, and it seemed, really enjoying putting forth the fresh material. And fresh it was. For a band that has been together for many years, it was nice to hear them still working on polishing little details of the newer tunes during the soundcheck.
And I discovered that what I thought had been a highly-processed (in the studio) mandolin riff that runs through "Anthony" is in fact played on a ukulele (something I should have spotted if I'd looked more carefully at the CD booklet), and Sara plays it in concert, with everyone huddled around one mic.
They'll be doing some regular touring starting this fall in support of WStFD.