A semi-daily chronicle of my life as a musician, a family man, and a citizen of Oregon.

Feb 22, 2009

Andrew Bird at the Roseland

Photo credit: gussifer (this is actually a picture of the show the night before at the fillmore in san francisco)

Last night's Andrew Bird concert was the best I've seen in a long time, which is saying something because I've made it to my share of shows recently.  Anyone familiar with Andrew Bird's style of performance has an idea of how this might go, and if you aren't just plug his name into youtube and you can get a pretty good idea.  AB loops bits of music - many times starting with a plucked pizzicato violin part, could be for four bars or sometimes 8 or 16, and then begins layering on all kinds of accompaniment, including whistling, hand claps, vocals, bowed violin parts, etc until a song emerges.  He's perfected the art of doing this in such a way that at a certain part of all these loops the song just kind of snaps together.

Loney Dear, a band from Sweden, opened the show.  This wasn't the kind of show where you're blown away because everyone is so good.  AB definitely was the part that will stick in my mind.  Loney Dear had a couple of flavors of indie-pop, the acoustic/plaintive/quirky kind of song (which I generally like a lot) and the overwrought epic (which I generally do not) loaded with keyboards.  They were fairly inventive in their stage show, singing off mic or conducting sing-alongs (generally a risky move when you're the unbilled opener) which were quite enjoyable.  Overall though, I won't be buying the album.

When AB finally came out he played mostly songs off of his new album Noble Beast.  I do have this album, although I haven't had a chance to get into it as much as I might like (due to my newfound obsession with The National).  My unfamiliarity hardly mattered, though, as AB's infectious excitement over the new material sold the songs and the melodies flawlessly.  He is one of those performers who puts heart and soul into what he does.  The concert reminded me of the aspects of music that go back for centuries, as a cross between a religious service and a communal gathering.  If I hadn't bought his album already I definitely would have after this show.  In fact, I recommend you do so as well.

The one slight criticism I'd have of the show is that AB is perhaps just a wee bit bored of playing material off of Armchair Apocrypha, his last full album.  I say this because on some of those songs he was loose or inventive with the melodies and their rhythms in a way that kind of detracts from the original song.  For instance, one of the best things about the song "imitosis" is the syncopated rhythm of the vocals in the verse, and when they're stretched and stylized they lose some punch.

But this is a small trifle in an overall great performance.  I loved it and I can't wait to see him again.