LIVE: Chris Thile @ Troy Music Hall, 10/16/2021

TROY — Saturday night, hundreds of rain-soaked fans filled the hallowed halls of the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall to be awe-struck by one of the greatest mandolin players of our time, Chris Thile. This was not my first experience seeing Thile; I had seen him with his band the Punch Brothers 4 times, his duo with Michael Daves twice (where I had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with him), but also, I listen to him and his merry band of insanely talented colleagues on Prairie Home Companion on NPR.  However, with all of these great things that make me a Thile fan, I had never experienced him solo, and in the perfect acoustics of the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall. It was magical. 

Photo by Glenn Kaplowitz

Thile opened the set with the title track from his new album, Laysongs,  followed by an instrumental piece, “Ecclesiastes”. He sprinkled in a few amazing covers including “Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground”, which he also alluded to having “greater meaning in about three weeks”, which leads me to believe there is more Jack White/Chris Thile works in the future! (He recorded his album with Michael Daves at White’s Third Man Records in Nashville, TN.)  He brought us back to his original works with the piece, “God Is Alive Magic Is Afoot”, a tongue in cheek poke at his fundamentalist Christian upbringing. 

The moment he played his first note, the audience held its breath. You could hear a pin drop; not even a tiny cough from the masked patrons. There were notable highlights for me, including the Bach Partita in E major, as well as the Sonata for Solo Violin by Bartok. His 3 part opus from Laysongs, “Salt of the Earth” was incredible for all to hear. He wrote this piece during his artist residency at Carnegie Hall and was the first piece he ever wrote for solo voice and mandolin. 

Photo by Michael Eck

His encore was breathtaking. He took suggestions from the audience, and ended up performing an unbelievable mash up of Hank Williams and Fiona Apple. Yes, you read that correctly. Apple is one of my favorite artists of all time, so I was very impressed, and rather emotional at the things I was seeing and hearing. It was otherworldly. 

Photo by Katy Ashe

But the most beautiful moment happened at the end of the night, when Thile stepped away from his microphone, and led the audience with “Won’t You Come and Sing For Me”, where all of us, from all walks of life, shared this beautiful moment, singing together:

“Sing those hymns we sang together
In that plain little church with the benches all worn
How dear to my heart how precious the moments  
We stood shaking hands and singing a song.”

Just magical. Don’t miss him the next time he comes around.

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