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Live Review: Chris Thile

16 January 2014 | 12:56 pm | Lorin Reid

The crowd loved him so much (standing ovation) that even though he ran overtime, he invited them to meet him outside on the Spiegeltent steps for an encore.

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He's touted by The Independent as “the most remarkable mandolinist in the world” and they're right on the money. Chris Thile bends the instrument to his will, somehow coaxing fluid runs, trills and arpeggios from its delicate strings. His reinvention of Bach's Sonata In G Minor, originally written for solo violin, made up the backbone of his performance, which was then interspersed with other “stuff”.

While his Bach left mouths quite literally open, it was his “stuff” – original folk/country/blues compositions and covers – that allowed him to showcase his cheeky yet humble personality and soaring falsetto voice.

One of the most impressive moments came when opening with the Louvin Brothers' Broadminded, he began following the singular notes of the mandolin with his voice, tottering higher and higher and beautifully bending notes. Equipped with some of the best unintentional facial expressions in the business, he played an ode to the cuteness of rabbits called Rabbit In A Log and what he considers to be his potential “chart-topping smash-maker”, the “drastically simplified excerpt from” The Blind Leading The Blind.

Half of Thile's charm is his charm – a natural storyteller and joker, he had the crowd laughing with his comedic tune, If You're Gonna Leave Me (Set Me Up With One Of Your Friends) and produced the best intro to a song ever with a dramatic reenactment of the Garden of Eden story (see: swinging flame sword and poisonous-glanded cherubim). But his reflective ballad Stay Away hit just as hard as the light-hearted, and the Bach Partita In B Minor, the song he continued to warn the audience about – “hunker down” he said with a smile – turned out to be the most impressive and complex moment of the evening. The crowd loved him so much (standing ovation) that even though he ran overtime, he invited them to meet him outside on the Spiegeltent steps for an encore.

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