Nickel Creek is an amazing trio of musicians who went on a performing hiatus at a peak in their career, apparently due to the the rigors of touring from what I’ve read on line and to expand their musical horizons. It is understandable, as they had pretty much been on the road since they were teens.
Thus I unfortunately never got a chance to see the group in concert. So it was especially exciting to learn that they were issuing a live album from their last tour in 2014, recorded right here where I live in the San Francisco Bay Area.
I pre-ordered my copy right away and it finally arrived recently. It was worth the wait. The milky coke bottle green vinyl is quiet and well centered. Not surprisingly, the music contained on the discs is rich and rewarding.
I would not be surprised if this album was recorded digitally so it has a crisp modern acoustic sound, yet there are no real harsh edges getting in the way.
Live at the Fox Theatre was recorded on May 19, 2014 and it is one of those great live recordings which captures the essence of the band on stage as well as some of the feel of the theater. The instruments are close mic’d so there is plenty of detail on the acoustic bass, mandolins and guitars. The trio’s vocal blend is gorgeous and it just underscores what brilliant musicians they are being able to pull off this complex music in a concert setting — live without a net.
Make no mistake, Nickel Creek may be acoustic and rooted in bluegrass traditions but their music is closer to Prog Rock by way of early Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. And on Live at the Fox Theatre you get to hear this unfold across four luscious sides.
There are spine tingling moments through out. One of the earliest comes at the intro to the second song, “Scotch and Chocolate,” with it’s haunting slow mandolin and violin introduction which gives way to a rollicking high speed drive this side of foggy mountain (no breakdowns reported on the mountainside).
Of course, Live at the Fox Theatre delivers many fan favorites and those tunes shine with in-the-moment joy including “The Lighthouse’s Tale,” “The Fox” and “When You Come Back Down.”
Amazingly enough for a band whose albums tend to sell out (and some become fast collector’s items!), Live at the Fox Theatre is still available from the band’s website so you should get your order in soon if you want a copy. It is not available on the streaming services like Qobuz and Tidal but their other albums are. It is however available in digital form via the band’s Bandcamp page (download and streaming, click here to jump to that)
If you are interested in how their studio albums faire on vinyl, please click here to read my recent review of their reissues on colored vinyl.
There are many riches to explore here from this tremendous modern progressive acoustic band. If you are a fan you need this. If you are curious about what Nickel Creek is about, this might not be a bad place to start…
Here is some fan footage from the show which sounds remarkably good.