The Punch Brothers brought their progressive bluegrass to TD Arena last night, as part of the Spoleto Festival USA for a show that entertained and impressed the not-quite sold out audience.
According to guitarist Chris Eldridge, this was their first show in three months, but there didn’t appear to be any rust.
Lead vocalist and mandolin player Chris Thile, bassist Paul Kowert, banjo player Noam Pikelny, fiddle player Gabe Witcher and Eldridge seemed more than ready to be playing with one another again. From the angular groove of “Who’s Feeling Young Now?” to the low misery of “Another New World” to the punchy joy of “This Girl,” and all the country and bluegrass covers in between, the Punch Brothers showed exacting skill and delight in performing each song. Their timing was precise, and their vocal harmonies were tight throughout the performance.
As the band played on, the audience was quiet, except for the thunderous applause at the end of each song. At first this felt unnerving, as their music, and Thile’s onstage gyrations, exuded energy and movement. As the audience took in the encore, it became clear that the quietness of the crowd was the result of actual intense listening.
After declaring that “this must be the quietest show in an arena, ever,” Thile announced that they were emboldened to play a final song unamplified.
Moving their instruments to the front of the stage, the Punch Brothers performed the final song of the evening with the same skill, joy and beauty they exhibited with each song prior. Inside the arena the only sounds you could hear were the low din of the air conditioning, and the brilliant playing of five virtuosic roots-rock performers.
When they finished, the ovation they received was earned, and there was no doubt that their third time playing in Charleston would surely not be their last.
Joseph DiDomizio is a Goldring Arts Journalist from Syracuse University.