Thursday night, ahead of an appearance by Chris Thile and Brad Mehldau at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts, the center’s Grand Hall was packed for pre-show drinks and a pre-show performance by The OK Factor. We enjoyed a cocktail and a lovely rendition of The Beatles’ “Here Comes The Sun” before finding our seats in The Harris Theater.
We had seen Thile and Mehldau live in the past, but never together. For those unfamiliar, Brad Mehldau is the jazz pianist responsible for that cover of “Paranoid Android” your college roommate used to play all the time. Chris Thile is the mandolin-picking frontman of Punch Brothers and the semi-recently anointed host of “A Prairie Home Companion.” Would the combined powers of Thile and Mehldau add up to a great show, and would they mind being referred to as “Thildau”? We sat down to get some answers.
The duo took the stage and dove right into originals “The Old Shade Tree” and “Tallahassee Junction” with lots of passion, pained expressions, and plaid shirts. A slow jazzy cover of Fiona Apple’s “Fast As You Can” followed. Afterwards, Mehldau commended Thile for so enthusiastically singing the line “I’ll be your girl.”
A soft instrumental cover of Elliott Smith’s “Independence Day” and a forlorn cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Marcie” came before an energetic run through Thildau’s “The Watcher.” (Does the “Thildau” thing work, or should we stop using that?) In conversation and in overall stage presence, the straight Mehldau contrasted with the playful Thile, creating a fun atmosphere throughout the performance.
The next few numbers ran across several different genres and featured some soloing, peaking with the fiddle-meets-bebop action and sweet lyrics of “Noise Machine.” Thile explained that he wrote the song as a tribute to his wife for enduring so many nights of crying during the months following the birth of their son. Mehldau joked that he couldn’t imagine how fussy the kid must have been, given the non-stop energy of Thile. They have fun.
The duo ended their set with a light and fast-paced cover of Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right”—a personal favorite of our Director of Advertising’s. Following a quick step offstage, they returned for one more tune. Thile announced that they would get a little dark for the encore, and he was right. A moody cover of David Rawlings’ and Gillian Welch’s “Scarlet Town” sent everyone off satisfied.
All in all, the plaid-shirted duo put on an incredible show. It was a great balance of fun and moving music, paired with the impeccable sound of the Wilson Center’s Harris Theater. Plus, there was a couple sitting in front of us who were celebrating 62 years of marriage, and he joked about stealing her candy during the show.