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Mutual Admiration Society

Metro, Chicago, IL

August 9, 2004


Most seasoned concertgoers can tell when the musicians on stage are having fun or just pretending for the sake of the audience.  A giddy smile plastered on one or more faces throughout the show is a good indication of how much the band is enjoying the show.  On August 9, at the Metro in Chicago, there was no mistaking that the members of Mutual Admiration Society (Nickel Creek members, Sara Watkins, Sean Watkins and Chris Thile, and Glen Phillips, ex Toad the Wet Sprocket) were having the time of their lives.


Mutual Admiration Society (Glen Phillips, Sara Watkins, Sean Watkins, and Chris Thile)


The last time the quartet toured together was 2001.  Since then, they have made surprise appearances at each other's shows as schedules have permitted, most often at Largo in Los Angeles, CA.  Now, with the release of their long awaited self-titled CD, the band finds themselves on tour once again.  This time, the Society includes special guest musicians, John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin) and Pete Thomas (The Attractions).


The crowd was anxious and excited for the show to start.  Some were wearing Toad t-shirts while others were sporting John Paul Jones merchandise.  There was even a handmade sign, which read, "You rock!"  To whom the message referred is still a mystery, but it could definitely apply to any member of the band, or the whole group.  Needless to say, when the show started 15 minutes late, we were ready.


Glen Phillips on Melodica


The set featured songs from the MAS self-titled CD, including 'Sake of the World,' 'Comes a Time,' 'Trouble,' and 'La Lune.'  They also pulled out a couple of Toad favorites including 'All I Want' and 'Dam Would Break,' satisfying many fans in the audience.  With the addition of the mandolin, Sean Watkins' guitar talent, and Sara's harmonies, each song breathed new life.  Nickel Creek fans were treated to a few of their favorites like 'The Fox,' 'The Smoothie Song,' and 'This Side.'   Bass and percussion added a rock feel to these bluegrass ditties.  However, those songs were all expected at a Nickel Creek/Glen Phillips concert.  What wasn't expected was Glen Phillips breaking out the lap steel guitar, dulcimer, and melodica.


Midset, the group mixed it up a little bit, giving each artist a chance to display his or her solo talents.  Glen Phillips came out with 'Don't Need Anything,' a song from a musical he co-wrote with friend, John Huddles.  Chris Thile's mastery of the mandolin was in full force during a tune from his upcoming solo CD.  Sara Watkins sang and played the ukulele on 'Anthony,' while Jones, Phillips, and Thile provided backing vocals.  Sean Watkins and Jones also did a stunning instrumental rendition of 'Going to California,' a classic Zeppelin tune.


John Paul Jones and Sean Watkins


We were also treated to 'Let It Fall,' a Sean Watkins song with Phillips on lead vocals.  As an introduction, Phillips commented that this was the tune that brought them together.  Watkins had approached him about singing 'Let It Fall' on his album and Phillips graciously agreed.  Through that introduction, the Mutual Admiration Society began.


John Paul Jones, Glen Phillips, Sara Watkins, and Chris Thile


The set concluded with Harry Nilsson's amusing ditty 'Think About Your Troubles.'  But, the crowd didn't want the show to end there.  They called the group back on stage for two encores, including the moving hymn, 'You Don't Have to Move That Mountain.' In full rock-star mode, Phillips also belted out the lyrics to 'Gallows Pole,' another Led Zeppelin tune.


Even though the show was an hour and 45 minutes long, they left the crowd wanting more.  Missing from the set were the MAS songs 'Be Careful' and 'Francesca,' which most fans have wanted to hear live for years.  Also absent was Toad's 'Walk on the Ocean,' and Nickel Creek's 'Lighthouse Tale' and 'She Can't Complain,' all crowd favorites.


Despite these omissions, at the end of the night, we exited the Metro feeling uplifted, knowing we had just experienced something special.  It's not often that music from such different genres (rock, pop, bluegrass, and new wave) are brought together to form such a cohesive whole.  While the musicians were admiring one another, the audience was admiring them, realizing that something like this project is a rarity in today's music scene.


To find out more information about Mutual Admiration Society, visit their website at