’Nights like these are the best,’ mandolinist Chris Thile proclaimed. And many fans at the sold-out, sun-splashed amphitheater on Thursday would agree. The review, photos.
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In apropos fashion, Nickel Creek kicked off its return to Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park – and launched the 2023 Fifth Third Bank Summer Concerts series – with the song “Where the Long Line Leads” from their latest album, “Celebrants.”
With sunny skies, temperatures in the 70s and a sold-out crowd of 1,900 on hand, that long line led straight to the Meijer Gardens amphitheater on Thursday, with Nickel Creek and its fans celebrating another season of live music in an idyllic setting.
“We wanna have a big time, we’re gonna have a big time,” the trio proclaimed to the delight of many longtime devotees who’ve followed the California folk/progressive bluegrass outfit since it first burst onto the scene more than 30 years ago.
While playing other songs from the new album, mandolinist Chris Thile, fiddler Sara Watkins and guitarist Sean made sure to perform a few older, deep-cut classic tracks such as “The Lighthouse’s Tale” and “When You Come Back Down.”
With support from Mike Elizondo on bass, the quartet manufactured complex, unplugged melodies while also taking time to celebrate Sara Watkins’ birthday. Thile stopped in the middle of the new album’s title track, “Celebrants,” to bring out “a couple cocktails” and even get the crowd to sing “Happy Birthday.”
“Thank you all so much for ‘Going Out…’ tonight,” Thile remarked at one point, alluding to another song on the new album. “Nights like these are the best. This is just the best.”
Nickel Creek had the Meijer Gardens crowd holding back tears for one song, then dancing and clapping along to the next. The harmony-laden bluegrass performance was a cathartic experience that brought out emotions of all kinds.
“I saw Chris Thile at St. Cecilia (Music Center in Grand Rapids earlier this year) and it was amazing what he can do. So I’m excited to see him again on opening night,” said concertgoer Brian Chesla of Grand Rapids.
Guatemala native and California-based singer-songwriter Gaby Moreno launched the evening with a set of sunny, bi-lingual folk.
Up Next at Meijer Gardens: O.A.R. and Preston Cooper play a sold-out show at the amphitheater at 6:45 p.m. Sunday. View the full schedule here.
PHOTO GALLERY: Nickel Creek, Gaby Moreno at Meijer Gardens
Photos by Jamie Geysbeek