Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Word is Bird - 4/9/16 at Wang Theatre

As with most good things, the vast majority of good things, it started with a violin.

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
And last, a fade to black.

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.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Double Post: Two (Andrew) Birds in the Bush

Andrew Bird has a new album out today. This Andrew Bird:

Hey you *wink*. Photo (c) Reuben Cox.
Not this bird:
Tweet tweet *wink*. Photo c.o. Wikipedia.
Both are given to flights of fancy, whistling, and yes, and occasional silliness and absurdity. But only one of these above is touring for his new album.

Guess which.


Citi Wang Theatre, Boston, MA. Sat. 4-9-16, 7pm. $40 and up.

Mr. Bird, formerly of Squirrel Nuts Zippers fame, has one spot in New England to hit, that spot being Boston, and we - as your musical legal counsel - strongly advise you catch this extraordinary lyricist and whistler. We caught him some time ago at the Newport Folk Festival, and yes, he really is an odd cat (odd for a Bird, certainly), but if you dig all that unusual, melodically twisty, somewhat nonsensical narrative, well then, have we got a treat for you. You like treats, you want a treat? Then here. Have a two-fer, as we did mention Mr. Bird does have an album out as well. Let's check into that, see what he's got under his wing (HARHAR with the funnies, yes):


Andrew Bird - Are You Serious
Loma Vista
- out today
3.5 / 5

Mr. Bird, hailing from our favorite Sufjan-state of Illinois, has hit upon his umpteenth album in his slightly more than dozen years of going solo. He is an old hand at this, but on Are You Serious, Mr. Bird seems to take things a bit more... seriously. Relatively speaking. What we mean by this: there are less melodic twists, more toned down song construction, less absolute Andrew-Birdian bizarre-ness (though trust us, it's still there), more familiarity and listen-ability than in previous releases. We still have as our go-to 2009's Noble Beast (though his 2012 Break it Yourself is similarly excellent), and here on Are You Serious, Mr. Bird does feel more toned down, more approachable than those previous albums.

Our favorite refrain comes from "Puma," about a third into the album: "She was radioactive for seven days." Yes, that is a chorus, and it is glorious. The songs here feel a bit more grounded, which certainly isn't bad, because you get something like the opening "Capsized," which is heavier and more percussive than Mr. Bird's general output. And where "Capsized" succeeds, with a groovy, heavy pop-y feel (more drums, snare, low-end), we feel the album can be more outgoing, more eccentric or maybe just reach further. But there is still his depth, yes, it is alive and well in self-aware songs like his duet with Fiona Apple, "Left Handed Kisses." Still, this album doesn't surprise, it doesn't ignite, but it's solid, it's good, and it fits in well with his output. We like it, but unlike Noble Beast, we aren't sucked into its spell.

Nonetheless, we feel Are You Serious is strangely a good album for Bird-thusiasts to get started on, something good to give to a friend to try. And if you snare them, move them onto the tougher, crazier stuff in his discography. Streaming on NPR, and recommended.


And with that, we shall take wing (oh, the hilarity!) and give that last reminder for Andrew Bird at the Wang Theatre. Will catch y'all there in about a week! And catch up with him on Soundcloud, too.