Sara Watkins – Rough Trade NYC – June 8, 2016
Sara Watkins was a Grammy winner before she could legally drink. As a member of the revered band Nickel Creek, she along with brother Sean and mandolinist Chris Thile created a strong and feverish fan base that has continued to follow them each since their break back in 2006. Last year they reunited for a tour, but for the most part Watkins has remained busy playing with the Decemberists, anchoring the Watkins Family Hour with Sean, forming the girl group I’m with Her with Sarah Jarosz and Aoife O’Donovan—and of course, her own solo effort.
Ahead of the release of her latest album, Young in All the Wrong Ways, Watkins hit the stage at Rough Trade NYC last night in a leopard top beneath a gold lamé jacket, opening a cappella before settling on “Miss My Kisses” and the David Garza–penned “Too Much.” Following the older pieces, Watkins offered newer material, beginning with her soon-to-be released record’s title track and the desert-inspired “Like New Year’s Day.” Watkins later took to the stage solo, armed with the mightiest of instruments, the ukulele, to enchant fans with the lullabylike “You and Me” and delighted Nickel Creek followers with the first song she ever wrote on diminutive strings, “Anthony.”
The set’s tempo quickly changed as the audience stomped and sang along to a cover of John Hartford’s “Long Hot Summer Days.” I was holding out a little hope throughout the night for some surprise guests, like her I’m with Her gals. They reunited only the night before after all. Alas, they were not there, but somehow I wasn’t disappointed because it reinforced the talent Watkins is on her own, which was punctuated by a pair from the forthcoming release, the whispery “Without a Word” and the rocking “Move Me.” A fitting fiddle piece led the encore before she hushed the crowd with the sweet “Tenderhearted.” —Sharlene Chiu