Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
hris Thile has never been one to sit still career-wise and in concert, and that quality has served him quite well. The mandolin picker extraordinaire has done everything from being a member of Nickel Creek to putting out solo albums to being a member of The Punch Brothers. Now, he's working as a duo with New York City acoustic guitar ace Michael Daves.
Not only is their debut CD "Sleep With One Eye Open" a rousing affair, but they had no problem pulling it off live either. The night, split into two sets, found Thile and Daves both extremely capable. Both tended to be picking on the fast side. You get the sense that it all came so effortlessly for Daves and Thile, but that would cheapen the quality of the music.
They played a good chunk of the new CD, scoring on such songs as 20/20 Vision and the classics Roll in My Sweet Baby's Arms and what Thile said was one of his favorites Bury Me Beneath the Willow. Thile sang the latter slowly and mournfully in a welcome, slowed-down song.
While Thile probably was forced to carry the duo if only because of his reputation, Daves certainly was up to the task as well. He wasn't as big a talker as his compadre, but he had no problem whatsoever holding his own musically. He matched Thile's speed and offered a different vocal delivery, often singing with a drawl.
Thile clearly was the dominant personality over the course of the extremely generous nearly 2 ½-hour set, which never flagged. As usual, his sense of humor came through loud and clear. During each of set, Thile announced that he and Dave's would take requests for instrumentals. When a few people suggested songs with lyrics, a smiling Thile would acknowledge what might have been a fine suggestion, but emphatically noted the song was "DIS-qualified."
Of course, just the fact that they would take requests from the sell-out out crowd of 340 was a testament to their engagement with the crowd and their self-interest in mixing it up from night to night.
Thile's just on this side of not coming off as being on smug, which probably was most apparent at the end of the night when he commented how Boston's always been good to him, and he genuinely seemed appreciative of the crowd's often very enthusiastic response.
Thile deserves much credit for not living in the past and resting on his laurels. He apparently likes to challenge himself muscially, given the changing landscape for him. But one constant remains - no matter in what configuration Thile plays either in recording or live, the results somehow always remain the same.