Saturday, April 13, 2013

Yeh, I Was Feeling God's Pleasure

The Carolina Theatre
in downtown Durham...
If you know me, or read this blog very often, you probably think that my husband and I (and sometimes our kid) are constantly going to shows and concerts… and you wouldn’t be wrong. I’m thinking about that Toyota commercial where the guy has bought too much car and has to give up his concert tickets and other luxuries. Well, you can bet that wouldn’t happen to us… because to my husband, live music is one of the necessities – like food, shelter and love. So… either we wouldn’t buy too much car, or we’d cut some other thing... like… well, I don’t know. Just not concerts. At any given time, we have around five envelopes on our fridge, each holding tix to a show of some sort.

Anyway, the other night we took in a little show by Brad Mehldau and Chris Thile at The Carolina Theatre in downtown Durham. Now, first off, The Carolina Theatre is a great venue – a lovely old Beaux Arts style building that has been beautifully restored. It makes you feel grand just to be there. Okay, so I did used to make their ads, so I’m a little biased. But it IS cool.

...a great place for a show!
Secondly, they set up folding chairs in front of the regular blue velvet theatre seats and call it “the pit,” and let me tell you, from that front row, it’s pretty hard to dodge the sweat droplets from the performers. Speaking as someone who remembers seeing R.E.M. so close up I could have touched Peter Buck’s boot, this is PERFECT.

Anyway, if you don’t know who Chris Thile is, his Wikipedia page gives a pretty good rundown, although you will want to take into consideration that it IS Wikipedia, and so, questionably accurate. You could also click on some of the links in the next paragraph to learn more.

Tom and I have seen him with his childhood/teenage band Nickel Creek, Punch Brothers, solo, with Michael Daves, and last night’s show with Brad Mehdlau, a jazz pianist who, like Thile, likes to play a buttload of notes.
Brad Mehdlau and Chris Thile –
the show in question

Thile is a charismatic personality who never fails to entertain and impress with his virtuosity. His skill with the mandolin is unsurpassed. I’ve written a whole post about my awe at his prowess. You can read it here. This is not about that, and it’s not really a review – I just wanted to give you a few thoughts I had that night.

Okay, so it's creepy 
for me to say so, but 
Chris Thile is hot!
The two musicians took their positions on stage, and I’m not going to lie to you – when I saw the long, lean, handsome Thile, I completely lusted in my heart. Of course, it’s slightly creepy, since he’s nearly 20 years younger than me… and because I’ve been seeing him perform since he was not even legal, but no one can control those things, can they? I’ve always had a thing for musicians. Everyone knows that. I can’t say it bothers me much, though. It just means I’m alive, right? I remember when I was in the throes of anorexia and about as lusty as a pinecone. Believe me, this is preferable.

And lust like that, after all, is just surface. It’s a fantasy. A guy like that… might be an a-hole, am I right? Chock full of talent and charisma… women probably throw themselves at him. Lusting after the guy is just part of enjoying the performance. (That’s what I like to tell myself, anyway.) It’s not like pledging your life and living through the good, the bad and the mundane with someone. That’s why, at this point, I just snuggled up to my husband, the only male body I have rightful access to… and he’s a tall, joyful hunk of man who more than suffices.

My next observation… I am so not a jazz fan. Noodles? My favorite food! Noodling? No thanks. That said, this show was a nice blend of note-y noodling and actual songs. Thile has a pleasant, expressive voice, but you don’t really need to even listen to the words. I mean, he pretty much uses his voice as third instrument, bending and shaping the sounds to match his musical aims. Not that the words were bad or inconsequential, I just got the feeling they were very much not the point. Even on the crowd-pleasing Dylan song, Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.

Actor Ian Charleson as  Eric Liddell  in 
Chariots of Fire, feeling God's pleasure
On the first Punch Brothers record, Thile worked through the pain of his dissolving marriage, but in this side project, I find his activities to be more about musicianship than self-expression. He’s a virtuoso pushing the limits of his technique, trying something new. Of course, I can’t read his mind, so it’s quite possible that he’s playing out his devils in this too… but not in any obvious way.

Speaking of the devil… While Thile and Mehdlau played they employed maximum facial expressionage. In fact, Thile kind of plays with his whole body… Think about the faces jazz musicians make when laying down funky riffs, multiply it by about ten, then you’ll know what I’m talking about. It made me think of that line in Chariots of Fire where Eric Liddell says, “When I run I feel His pleasure,” to express the joy in the Lord that running gave Him. The movie would show him running down the beach or in a race in those loose white running clothes and at a certain point he’d throw his head back and you’d know that He was feeling God’s pleasure. This clip says it all.

Chris Thile, feeling God's pleasure?
And that’s what I sensed those guys doing… feeling God’s pleasure. So if you’re not airing your devils in your music, maybe just grooving on the fact that there is music and you can play it is the opposite…! I laughed out loud at the show thinking, “Sometimes I feel God’s pleasure when I write.” It’d be funny if I were sitting here at my Macbook pounding this out and making grimmacy "into it" faces?!

Anyway, I don’t know if this was exactly what was happening to Chris Thile, but when I know that when he plays that mandolin – no matter the style… I am most certainly feeling God’s pleasure!

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