Setting: Stereotypically overcast Seattle, Wash. during an early afternoon in mid-November. My brother just flew in from the Bay Area for an extended Thanksgiving trip and was napping in the other room while I snuggled up on the couch to listen to one of my favorite musicians guest star on a podcast hosted by another one of my favorite musicians.
Thile begins the episode with a jaunty cover of “Kiss” by Prince, then starts gushing about St. Paul Minnesota, where the episode takes place. He wonders “who’s gonna pull a Meryl Streep” at the Grammys, playing parts of “Don’t Hurt Yourself” by Beyoncé and Adele’s “Hello” with mandolin and voice (admittedly, I don’t follow Beyoncé much and wasn’t familiar with the song. I’m somehow delighted that bluegrass heavyweight Chris Thile is well-versed in Beyoncé ).
Live From Here is set up kind of like a talk show in the mold of its predecessor, A Prairie Home Companion: monologues, fun sketches and games, musical guests, short interviews, and intermittent live music by Thile and his band — who sometimes comedically cut him off mid-monologue.
The musical guests rotate as more are introduced. On this episode, we hear from indie pop quartet (is that an oxymoron?) Lucius, followed by the venerable and unbelievably chill Mehldau, who plays a duet with Thile. And that’s only the beginning.
Oh gawd, he just improvised a cover of “Stacy’s Mom” with his band. Thile is hilarious and awesome.
Now they’re all playing a song called “Oh Me,” a lovely, mid-tempo song by Gaby Moreno, which had just been nominated for a Grammy.
The constant pace changes of the music, the oddball sketches — the radio magician “Radiodini” and his assistant “Graziella” — and Thile and his band covering randomly suggested songs are wonderful. The interviews are fun and personal anecdotes like the story of Thile’s young son loving Lady Gaga so much that he cried when her Super Bowl halftime show ended, so the rest of the game was spent replaying it, are heartwarming.
Thile, Mehldau and Lucius conclude the episode with a cover of Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright,” which, even in this cheery arrangement, never fails to make me emotional.
You probably get that I really like Thile — the word “Thile” likely taking up roughly 20% of this review — but he is a perfect host, stepping back to allow his guests to shine, and guiding both audience and performers through an entertaining and conversational two-hour show.
It’s such a silly, genuine, pleasant, and feel-good show that I find it downright touching.
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