Vail Daily concert review: Punch Brothers performance garners two standing ovations
Vail, CO Colorado
BEAVER CREEK, Colorado – Punch Brothers brought a concoction of potent musical prowess mixed with a heavy syrup of soulful melodies to the Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek on Sunday night. The group played a rich 19-song set to an attentive crowd.
The evening began fashionably late with a lilting bluegrass tune titled “Next to the Trash.” The first song finished with a string-version of a sword fight between mandolin and violin, met by a smattering of applause from the rapt audience. The liquid performance flowed from tenderly sweet to recklessly upbeat throughout the next hour and a half. Songs such as “New Chance” elicited the feeling of a fly on the wall during a bluegrass back porch jam session, while “Missy” caused a deep stirring of the soul with its sweet harmonies and desolate violin solo in the crux of the song.
Guitarist Chris Eldridge, bassist Greg Garrison, banjo player Noam Pikelny, violinist Gabe Witcher and mandolin player Chris Thile graced the stage amid a litter of set lists, water bottles and five microphones for vocals. Despite a heavy musical genius surrounding each member, their stage presence was both refined and comfortable. Witty one liners between songs, as well as numerous compliments about the acoustics and ambiance of the Vilar kept the crowd warm throughout the performance. At Thile’s mention that there would be “no skiing for any of us,” the crowd responded with sympathetic murmurs. It was an embrace between passionate musicians and enraptured listeners, with gracious applause at the last note of each complex solo.
The quintet showcased their 10-track album “Antifogmatic.” Thile credits the title to a loose slang for “a bracing beverage, rum or whiskey, that one would have in the morning before going out to work in rough weather, to stave off any ill effects.”
In the same way, many subjects of the songs might benefit from a bracing beverage. However, while listening to the five top-notch musicians, hardly anyone was in need of a strong drink.
As a whole, the concert, as well as the group, bypassed genre lines. A cover of The Beatles’ “Paperback Writer” was mixed with lightning quick bluegrass. A Radiohead cover of “Morning Bell” was brilliantly executed with five-stringed instruments.
The evening concluded with not one, but two standing ovations. Following the first, Thile stood alone at the edge of the stage and played classical Bach, acoustic. The soft-yet-measured strums of an unamplified mandolin drifted over the silent audience. Upon finishing, the other four members of Punch Brothers returned to complete the night with a final toe-tapping bluegrass number.
The great potential of mixing raw talent, deep passion and meticulous devotion to music is seen in the five members of Punch Brothers. With notable awards in their recent past, Punch Brothers have a bright future.
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