Ravinia Pavilion; Fri 10
Why should the fire die? That wasn’t a rhetorical question, or an idle album title, for Nickel Creek. Members of the bluegrass-rooted acoustic trio have been playing together since string-benders Sean Watkins and Chris Thile met as preteens who shared a mandolin teacher, way down yonder in that hotbed of Appalachian culture, suburban Southern California. Later joined by Watkins sibling Sara on fiddle, Nickel Creek is pushing two decades as a band—even though none of its members are yet 30.
So it makes sense that maybe, what with solo and collaborative endeavors catching on, the band wants to take a breather. Hence, the “Farewell (For Now) Tour,” which portends a hiatus for these high-spirited kids, who will bottle up Nickel Creek after a Last Waltz–style finale at Nashville’s fabled Ryman Auditorium in November.
Even if it wasn’t curtains, fans can expect a rollicking show. The trio’s charm always has been the way it combined chops—the speed-of-light fingerpicking that made newgrass something like prog-rock in denim overalls—with Sunday-school vocal sincerity, and still managed to cover Pavement and Radiohead with a wink and a nod. Monster harmonies and killer licks made 2005’s Why Should the Fire Die? a simply great pop album, perhaps the Revolver of Bonnaroo Nation. But Thile, especially, has been a prolific talent who we suspect may feel a tad too contained by the concept. Maybe he’s the André 3000 of bluegrass? There will be plenty of time to debate. Meanwhile, get there early to catch opening act Fiona Apple, another precocious phenom with an ear for slippery notes.—Steve Dollar