Don Stiernberg (left) and Chris Thile backstage at Pick-Staiger concert hall in Evanston, IL, after Thile's solo concert, October 15, 2013 (photo by Dave Royko)
Hard to describe the Chris Thile solo mandolin performance at Pick-Staiger (in Evanston), without going apesh*t with hyperbole. What I can say is that supreme mandolin master Don Stiernberg and I were commiserating afterwards in being reduced to the Chris Farley SNL talk-show-host character who simply geeked out over his celebs, "That scene you did was so awesome!" Well, I felt a bit better in reacting that way to Chris's concert when Don was too. (It was Don who came up with that analogy when we were ranting together right after the concert, and on his own Facebook page, he wrote, "When I got home and my wife asked how the show was I burst into tears!") Thile wove the entirety of his Bach CD of sonatas and partitas into a program encompassing songs from his "How to Grow..." and "The Blind Leaving..." CDs, traditional and Civil War era material, plenty of new original stuff ranging from profound to truly hilarious, an extraordinary atonal extended-techniques avant mando intro to a Fiona Apple number, and, again, Bach Bach Bach, played expressively, with gorgeous dynamic shading, yet with real logic and knowledge of the music's structure, with such beauty. Plus, he was non-stop entertaining, his stage patter inducing plenty of full-throttle laughter from the packed house. I was astounded when I looked at my watch after it ended, having expected a 75 minute set plus encore, only to see he'd done a full 2 hours without a break, alone with only his mandolin (and his voice, plus feet, stomped during the Fiona Apple avant-intro). PBS should produce a televised version. I was expecting plenty from this show -- it's Chris Thile, whose music has knocked me out for 19 years -- since he was 13 and released "Leading Off." But with this solo show he has hit a new peak (and I am saying this being a big time devotee of Nickel Creek, Goat Rodeo, duets with Michael Daves, Bela Fleck, Mike Marshall, and Edgar Meyer, Mark O'Connor's Retrospective, his flying-pig mandolin concerto, and of course Punch Brothers, to hit only some highlights). I left having attended one of the greatest concerts I've ever experienced. Really.
(Originally posted to Facebook at 11:24pm, October 15, 2013)