The Punch Brothers, an all-star quintet assembled by mandolin virtuoso Chris Thile, put on an incredible “newgrass” performance last night at the Beacon. After a short hiatus following their well received album Who’s Feeling Young Now?—a success that came with the price of a packed touring schedule—the Punch Brothers are back on stage where they belong to promote their latest record, The Phosphorescent Blues. And what better venue in NYC than Beacon Theater for the occasion? Last night was filled with several charming moments, all which began with the arrival of perhaps the loveliest rising talent we’ve seen in awhile.
Opening for the Punch Brothers was Gaby Moreno, a Guatemalan singer/songwriter and winner of a Latin Grammy for Best New Artist. After filing into our Orchestra Seats (totally worth it for a show where technical skill and prowess can be observed), we sat back and were immediately taken by Gaby Moreno’s bluesy Spanish serenades. Towards the end of a short but sweet set, Gaby Moreno announced that a “very special guest” would be joining her on stage. And without further adieu, Oscar Isaac, the leading actor of Inside Llewyn Davis and A Most Violent Year, entered the stage. Since Oscar Isaac played a musician in Inside llewlyn Davis, most of the audience already knew that this man could sing. But boy, did they sing. The Spanish duet was simply beautiful. Together, they had the entire theater sitting quietly, encased in their soulful vocals. Moreno ended her set with the hit “Daydream by Design”, and left the stage with the audience satisfied, yet eager for the Punch Brothers to begin.
Currently midway through their extensive North American Tour, the Punch Brothers, all dressed in suits and suspenders, took the stage as champions enter the ring: with dignity. They are, after all, some of the best working and recording players in the industry. After taking time for the audience to give a warm welcome, they launched the concert with a tune from The Phosphorescent Blues called “My Oh My”.
The set, composed of 17 songs, ranged across all four Punch Brothers albums, making it so every fan of the house got a taste of what they love. In addition to incorporating a wide variety of musical style and composition into their set at the Beacon, the Punch Brothers surprised fans with a vocal quintet. The band members set their instruments down, arranged themselves around a single mic, and began to harmonize a tune from Inside Llewyn Davis, a haunting melody called “The Auld Triangle”. It isn’t every day that you are in the company of virtuosity, of pure and astounding vocal and musical talent. “The Auld Triangle” was a brief, yet compelling moment that couldn’t have been pulled off by many, especially not with the careful precision of the Punch Brothers.
From “Rye Whiskey”, a standard acoustic blues number that turns into a full on hoedown, to “Flippin”, a song filled with intricate string solos to feature each member of the band, the night was certainly filled with tasteful and captivating variety. Phosphorescent Blues is an album which veers in a different direction that their past albums, one that leans more on a lyrical edge than technical proficiency. This album is definitely more widely accessible to fans who may not be proficient or knowledgeable in the music area. But don’t be mistaken, each track is still markedly complex, allowing each member to show off their chops an adequate amount. In the song “Familiarity”, the band members make trade-offs within the arrangement so naturally, one has to wonder how five guys could be so completely in tune to one another. Though I was less familiar with the new album, the tracks played off of The Phosphorescent Blues had a seamless, mature quality to them, as if where the Punch Brothers have landed in their music career is exactly where they ought to be. With their latest effort, the Punch Brothers have bridged the gap between musician and music lover, showing full appreciation towards their fans and the support given to them over the years.
If you didn’t get a chance to catch the Punch Brothers last night at the Beacon, there are still plenty of dates left on the Punch Brothers 2015 Tour. Are you a fan of a specific member of the Punch Brothers, such as banjo prodigy Noam Pikelny or master guitarist Chris Eldridge? Check out their individual tour schedules here.
The Punch Brothers Setlist was as follows:
My Oh My
Another New World
Through the Bottom of the Glass
I Blew It Off
Flippin (The Flip)
Movement and Location
The Auld Triangle
Wayside (Back in Time)
Between 1st and A