This was a night in which the music overcame.
The Punch Brothers brought their Summer tour to the Tower Theatre last Saturday night, and were welcomed by yet another near sold out audience. That’s becoming common place at the Tower Theatre, and with good reason, but unfortunately, not without some issues. I’ll touch on that in just a bit.
The Punch Brothers are an incredibly talented quintet featuring Chris Thile on Mandolin and vocals, Chris ‘Critter’ Eldridge on guitar, Noam Pikelny on banjo, bassist Paul Kowert and violinist Gabe Witcher.
The music they play, could be called, Progressive Bluegrass, Newgrass, possibly, Chamber music, or whatever else confining term comes to mind. Whatever you want to call it, it’s living and breathing, spontaneous and intricate.
Despite Thile’s name recognition, any of the five musicians are talented enough to lead this band. The ease and effortlessness of their performance is fascinating. Especially so, as despite operating with a pre determined set list, their performance manages to retain that freshness of spontaneity. Perhaps Thile tosses in some extra notes here, or Eldridge, or even Pikelny does the same there. There remains an unexpected lack of ego, and even more so, an obvious camaraderie that takes each song to a new level. It’s really something to see.
Touring in support of their new Nonesuch album, the band performed all but one track from All Ashore. Highlights for me included the instrumentals “Three Dots and a Dash” and “Jungle Bird,” each preceded by an entertaining narrative, as well as “It’s All Part of the Plan.” Despite the focus on the new material, the band also sprinkled in several fan favorites such as “This Girl,” “Watch ‘at Breakdown,” and Debussey’s “Passepied.”
Opening the evening, was Madison Cunningham. Hailing from Orange County, CA, Ms. Cunningham was supporting her last night of the tour before heading home. Taking the stage solo, armed with only her Jazzmaster guitar, she delivered an enchanting set that more than once showed influences of Joni Mitchell, and others of the Laurel Canyon sound.
The unfortunate aspect of the evening was the continuous disruptions caused by “show talkers.” Madison Cunningham’s set was at times inaudible do to many groups of people intent on loudly socializing. Despite their louder presentation, there were times throughout the Punch Brother’s set that were marred by these individuals as well. The Tower Theatre staff did a commendable job of handling a difficult situation, that ultimately even resulted in some offenders being asked to leave. During some post show conversation with other attendees, this was a common topic and frustration. Even speaking with the band post show revealed that it was noticeable and disappointing to them. I’m not sure what the answer is to this growing issue that seems more and more common throughout live audiences.
Thankfully, despite this, the night was rewarding for any music fan intent upon listening to the music being shared. The Punch Brothers continue their tour across the country, and you can find out information here: https://www.punchbrothers.com/ For our review of their earlier album, click one of these bolded words.