The last time I listened to Nickel Creek was to analyze their adaptation of Robert Burns’ poem, “Sweet Afton,” in my English literature class in college three years ago. Indeed, the waters of Nickel Creek flow gently, a trait reflected in “Sweet Afton” and many other Nickel Creek staples. And that general lack of bite, paired with an almost robotic mastery of each band members’ respective instrument, pushed me away from the band.
So it was strange that, with no expectations and an arbitrarily negative perception of the classic folk band, I really enjoyed seeing Nickel Creek reunite in Washington, D.C. after a six-year hiatus. The show, in sum, was really, really good.
I was sandwiched on the upper level between some high schoolers and a middle-aged man at the show with, presumably, his mom. Below us was a melting pot of folk music fans of all ages with one thing in common: they all love Nickel Creek. I didn’t realize so many people could love Nickel Creek so strongly, and I was blown away by the energy and participation of the crowd. The band thrived on the raucous sing alongs of the crowd and seemed to feel like it almost owed them a great performance. Everyone in the building was having a good time.
I went to see Punch Brothers last spring at the same venue (the 9:30 Club in D.C.) and was blown away by the musicianship of all of the band’s members but especially its mandolin virtuoso and front man — Chris Thile — who also happens to be a member of Nickel Creek. The Nickel Creek performance followed suit, and each member provided stunning displays of technical mastery combined with emotional energy (usually fueled by the crowd), particularly on the instrumental tunes peppered throughout the set.
The band played all of their hits (see their “best of” album, Reasons Why: The Very Best) for what comprised most of their set list. They threw in a few nice new tunes like “Destination” and “Love of Mine” for good measure, but the crowd definitely enjoyed hearing some of the more popular songs like “The Lighthouse’s Tale” and “When in Rome.”
All in all, great show from a great band, and who knows how long they’ll be on tour for in the future — fans had to wait six years up until a few months ago. Here’s to hoping there’s still more to come from an already prolific folk band.
Brandon Hook is the Web and Multimedia Associtae at Sojourners.