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Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau Bring Fun & Feelings

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Friday September 01, 2017

From Milwaukee Record

Chris Thile and Brad Mehldau bring fun and feelings to the Wilson Center
By: Josh Hoppert

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.

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