The last time we'd caught Andrew Bird was ages ago, at a Newport Folk Festival. So yes, it's been a while. While our memory of him had somewhat diminished, distorted, become part and parcel of some of our "musician stories" - musician anecdote #134, specifically - those initial memories of Mr. Bird had been fairly fond. "Fairly fond," you say? Initially. But we were wrong. Horribly wrong.
Because, as with almost all good things, it started with a violin.
Andrew Bird is a musician more talented than we'd initially made out. And live, he is the real deal, the whole spiel. He is funny, charismatic, self-deprecating between songs. And in song, in Bird-song as it were, he is generally spot-on, pulling, inwardly drawing.
We'll explain a bit more. But first, a nice photo of Mr. Bird:
|Let the light shine down on him. (c) Matthew Keefer|
The opener, Boogarins, were a spacey, shoe-gazy foursome. Psychedelic, but not quite psychedelicious. Their main weapon at their command, the one they favored the most, was the pregnant pause - when the four of them stopped playing their instruments and let quiet pervade... mid-song. Which was effective the first, and maybe second times they did it. But, alas, we felt Boogarins were not as thick with talent as they could have been to be touring, most of their technical prowess embodied in their drummer.
Boogarins were loud. Loud and directionless.
So when Andrew Bird and his +3 took stage, we weren't entirely sure whatall to expect. It had been - gosh! six years since we caught him. Six years plus a Fiona Apple duet is a long time.
But Bird was everything and more. And more, we say.
They opened appropriately with a nice instrumental before going right into the opener of his new album, "Capsized." While much of the initial act came off of Are You Serious, which we enjoyed, and are enjoying, more and more, some of our favorites came from Bird's deep discography - one from Noble Beast, the title track from Armchair Apocrypha. Needless to say, Bird has plenty of material to draw from, and of course can surprise us with tracks we haven't heard of.
And perhaps what surprised us most was his banter between songs.
"Any bow people in the place? Can you do a quick rehair?" (This upon noting half his bow was twirling around, unstrung.)
|Oh, the hair-manity! Still (c) Matthew Keefer|
Which lead us up to our favorite song of the initial act: his new single, "Left Handed Kisses." Bird took some time to explain Fiona wasn't coming out for this one *cue sadness* but that he was going to duet it by himself.
To which Bird proceeded to inhabit stage left of the mic (for Fiona) and stage right (for his parts).
Bird was animated, especially as "Ms. Apple," delighting in his, yes, delightful performance of the song. He even remarked afterward how intensely he got into it - "I must be angry at myself; I spat all over me. Damned me." (Paraphrased, of course.)
Of course you're going to spit and scowl and shriek when you're waving your arms around like Fiona Apple. Of course you are.
But the highlight of the night - and yes, there was much more to come - came during the encore. We thought we'd had it all when Bird and his Birdsmen did an acoustic version of Neil Young's "Harvest" (the song, not the whole album), but there was even more after that.
We were enthralled, enamored, encapsulated by his performance of...
Well, we have to explain a bit, first.
Mr. Bird had been brewing in his mind a kids' show concept for some time. A title character by the name of Professor Socks, who has befriended a talking fox, and enjoys putting his lips together to whistle (like anyone we know?) Mr. Bird performed the theme to his kids' show, and we were STUNNED. More like smiling, enjoying the humor and silliness and... let's go back to enamored. That we think calls it.
We were somewhat surprised by how much we enjoyed this show. Like we mentioned, last time we caught him, Bird was good; this time we caught Bird, he was magnificent. Like a soaring... perhaps dolphin through the ocean. That's the only particular flying metaphor we can seem to come up with.
Next, another glorious photo:
|Whistle away, fair bard. (c) Matthew Keefer|
|In the heat of the moment. (c) Matthew Keefer|
The most fun we've had in a long time. Check out further tour dates on Andrew Bird's site.