Steve Martin and Edie Brickell at NonComm

Steve Martin Edie BrickellAt the surface, a pairing like Steve Martin and Edie Brickell might seem unrealistic at best. A 67-year-old comedian teaming up with Paul Simon’s wife? Yet long-time fans of Martin know that he is just as adept with the banjo as he is with comedy. That’s part of the reason his Non-Comm performance with Brickell, which primarily consisted of songs from their new collaborative album Love Has Come For You, proved that they both still have plenty of life left in them.

From the very beginning, when Steve Martin first sat down in his chair on stage to perform his own sound check, he delighted the audience with his signature charm and wit with comments like “I haven’t tuned this [banjo] in four years” and, when the rest of the band finally entered the stage, “I’ve been performing already for five minutes!” Soon after Edie Brickell joins them, they officially start the show with Love Has Come For You’s opening track, “When You Get To Ashville.” Martin quickly establishes his banjo skills with a melodic playing-style that remained prominent throughout the set as he consistently plucked away at its strings. Brickell complemented this playing style with a relatively soft singing voice and stirring harmonies. This was especially prominent on the duo’s folk-like “story songs” (as Steve Martin described one of them) such as “Sarah Jane and the Iron Mountain Baby”, which tells the story of wive who raises a baby that was saved from being thrown out of a train, and the title track of Love Has Come For You.

Martin and Brickell also received strong support from their five-person backing band: the Grammy-Award winning Steep Canyon Rangers. They helped provide a very warm and acoustic sound that evoked a sense of nostalgia that could only come from American Roots music. The strongest player of the entire group was arguably fiddle-player Nicky Sanders, whose long notes and slow playing contrasted nicely with Martin’s frantic banjo plucking. However, during the set’s grand finale, a true Bluegrass stomper that adapted its lyrics from a poem, Sanders took things in the complete opposite direction when he, Martin and the rest of the band played faster and more furiously than ever. Sanders pulled off multiple jaw-dropping solos that featured the most impressive fiddle playing since Charlie Daniels Band’s iconic “Devil Went Down To Georgia.” It was enough to inspire the audience to clap along to the pounding beat without any provocation. All in all, Steve Martin’s melodies, Edie Brickell’s heartfelt lyrics, and the Steep Canyon Rangers’ musicianship all came together radiantly to create something greater than the sum of its parts.

By Bond Collard
Photo by Jamie Loftus

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