Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Live Review: Punch Brothers, Bowery Ballroom, December 30th, 2012, SUPER PASS Day 2

Can SUPER PASS Day 2 retain the excellence of the first round? 

A good way to start is opening with my favorite song off of Who’s Feeling Young Anyway? a little ditty titled “Don’t Get Married With Out Me.” Yes, it’s as cute as it sounds. I love the falsetto hook to “let’s not fool ourselves/taking a break is dragging a break up too long” and following it with a poignant “help yourself to whatever you like with whomever you like/but don’t get married with out me.” Delicious. 

I think even the biggest Chris Thile fans tend to discount how great of a lyricist he is. It’s an easy mistake to make when you factor in musicianship, charisma, general likeability, etc, etc. But, on some of these relationship songs his style reminds me of Ben Folds—to the point, without poetry, and just blatantly honest words. There’s such a craft to doing this without feeling forced. I just listened to a Folds interview when he critiqued his own process and self-awareness and going through some of the songs on WFYN it’s hard not to feel it’s pretty similar all around for Thile.

This show, out of the three, was by far my favorite. It featured the most outlandish jams in all their perpetual persuasiveness, the best collection of covers and little moments of delicate crooning grandeur that melted me into a Bowery Ballroom puddle. Don’t slip over me on the way out!  

The cultivation of a setlist continues to be the most fascinating thing in the world to me. I was really sucked into this performance of “Flippen,” I believe it was the first night, but it could have been this night when Thile gushed, “God! We LOVE that song!” after playing it. Either way, things like that tend to stick with me and it was neat to see how differently they played it from night to night.

I have to personally gush about Aoife O’Donovan. WOW! I was blown away by her. Obviously, I’m a sucker for a woman that can sing/song write as well as drink (You gotta have standards, right?). And Aoife told stories and wrote songs, much in the way the Punch Brothers do that involve an adult beverage or seven throughout, which tends to tug at my soul oh so gently. Keeping me eternally warm and fuzzy. That’s why I love Carina Round (listen to her new album "Tigermending") so much, and in this very same way, after this set, I can firmly put Aoife into that category. I wouldn’t say she’s “actress hot” but at this particular show, she was looking gorgeous under the Bowery lights, an All-American beauty with perfect blonde hair and a sleek dress. She seemed like a great deal of fun. Boys have I ever told you about the time... 

She came back out mid-set after a classic introduction from Noam to play “Here and Heaven” a song she co-wrote with Thile for the Goat Rodeo Sessions (a project with Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan and others) and a drop-dead heart melting version of WFYN’s “Soon or Never” another one of those no-nonsense Thile love ballads. The song is delicate and pure rising to a momentous opus declaring, “I rise as the sun goes down and pray my true love and I find a way to each other soon or never.” Their voices blended together so beautifully, it just made me want MORE OF THAT! I was certainly sent to a chilled shock by the swinging chair magnificence. The song to me, has this tremendous swinging waltz, yet, it’s so patient and calming.

Aoife came back out for the encore for another Gillian Welch tune (the band’s second song was “Wayside”) to which I’m not 100% certain which one it was. I knew the tune, but again, I found myself taken back by the beauty I almost didn’t take in exactly what happened. Kind of like when you talk to a girl and you’re really nervous, you have a conversation, but you have no idea what she said? Then, you’re nervous to talk to her again, because, you may have already talked about things you might talk about. Does that happen to anyone else? Well, it happened to me, and I can’t recall. I THINK it was “Dear Someone,” but some of that therein lies that Thile plays that one from time to time.

Non-album covers of The Band’s “Ophelia,” Radiohead’s “2+2=5,” and Beck’s “Sexx Laws” are as dynamic as you’ll see at any show…EVER. It’s the kind of thing that makes you channel Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid saying, “Who are these guys!?” I’ve personally seen them play all three of these covers, but dare I say there was a slight extra punch (apologies to making THAT pun) to them this particular evening like a Punch Brothers greatest hits, only the favorites. Oh, yeah, I almost forgot, they also did “Surf’s Up” by the Beach Boys (which I covered in great detail in my Day 1 piece).

Chris Thile just steps on the gas for the closing FREAK OUT of Radiohead’s Hail to the Thief opener. That’s always been one of my favorite Radiohead songs, if not my absolute favorite. I'm still amazed at how the PB's can recreate those electronic sounds with real instruments. Who are these guys? 

There were so many superlative moments from this show, it’s honestly hard to document them all without going on forever. I’m trying to pick-and-pop through the high points (through the three nights) and hope the overall scope casts enough of a light that you too, will change your plans the next time these guys play a show in your town.

Perhaps I’ll see you there!

Don’t Get Married Without Me
Wayside (Back in Time) (Gillian Welch cover)
You Are
Ophelia (The Band cover)
The Blind Leaving the Blind: Third Movement
Here and Heaven (Goat Rodeo Sessions, with Aoife O’Donovan)
Soon or Never (with Aoife O’Donovan)
2+2=5 (Radiohead cover)
Piney Woods (Noam Pickelny & Friends cover)
This Girl
Woman and the Bell (Antifogmatic B-Side)
Rye Whiskey
Surf’s Up (Beach Boys cover)
Watch ’at Breakdown

Gillian Welch cover (with Aoife O’Donovan) à (I think it was “Dear Someone”)
Mississippi Valley (John Hartford cover)
Another song? (I can’t remember? Seems like there were four.)
Sexx Laws (Beck cover) 

Ahoy Series: 

Aiofe O'Donovan Series (a few without her): 

Day 1
Day 3

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