Nickel Creek is currently on tour through August 19th, 2007 with the stunningly talented and under-appreciated Fiona Apple. I had the pleasure of catching one of the very first shows on what the band has dubbed the "Farewell (For Now) Tour".
The future of Nickel Creek is indeed up in the air based on the following message posted on the group's website:
After seven years of extensive touring in support of three records (seventeen years as a band), we've decided to take a break of indefinite length at the end of 2007 to preserve the environment we've sought so hard to create and to pursue other interests. It has been a pleasure to write, record, and perform for you through the years and we'd like to heartily thank you for your invaluable contribution to our musical lives.
(Sean, Sara, and Chris)
I think this could be put in much simpler terms by saying something like, "We're breaking up, but we'll be back if our solo projects don't work out."
There's always a sense of excitement and importance around a show that's part of a "farewell" tour, and even with the ambiguity around NC's announcement, this fact was still very much palpable.
Nickel Creek have been playing together since they were quite literally, kids. And even though they were groomed on bluegrass by such luminaries as Alison Krauss, it's the incorporation of indie rock on their traditional bluegrass foundation that's helped create something really unique.
The years of playing together reflected well on August 5th, 2007 where I watched them perform at the Ovens Auditorium in Charlotte, NC. All three are advanced students of their respective instruments, if not virtuosos, and their ability to feel what the other members are doing creates dynamic sweeps that are awe inspiring considering the absence of any sort of drums or percussion.
I got to the show early as I did not want to miss Fiona Apple, who was on the bill as a special guest. As someone who has labeled Fiona's last album Extraordinary Machine a brilliant work, I was shocked when Nickel Creek arrived on stage without Fiona preceding them.
However, my fears were put to rest when she joined the band for a set that was filled with energy and verve.
On this tour Fiona is truly a "special guest", not an opening act.
On the songs that Fiona sang, Nickel Creek did a bang up job of supporting her, even on a host of tracks from Extraordinary Machine that must have taken a great deal of work to transcribe. The blending of NC and Fiona is without a doubt, what makes this tour a must see event, even if Nickel Creek are never to perform again as a band.
The high energy, stage banter and song selection (including a cover of Gillian Welch's "I Want To Sing That Rock & Roll", Ella Fitzgerald's "When I Get Low, I Get High, and a stunning version of Fiona's "Limp") made for a memorable night.
Although everything was first-class in regards to the performances it was Fiona Apple who stole the show.
This is a woman possessed by her art. She's taken the brunt of critics who could not spot a visionary if one were dropped in their lap. But when you watch Fiona Apple perform, hear her words, and feel what she pours forth, you understand that you're watching something special. This cathartic presence and connection is what live music is all about. And on this night it was available in spades.
If this performance is any foreshadowing of what to expect from Fiona Apple's next album (which she begins recording after this tour with Nickel Creek) than I'll be one of the first in line to get a copy.
I put together some video clips that I recorded on my digital camera during the show. You can view it at YouTube. But I would highly recommend that you see one of these shows in person.