Saturday, January 31, 2009

In Concert: Andrew Bird

Last night, I saw Andrew Bird with opening act Loney, Dear @the Orpheum in Boston.

First a few words on the Swedish band Loney (note: not lonely), Dear. Going into the show I had never heard of them- in fact, I had no idea they were even opening the show until they came on stage. For a few minutes, I won't deny thinking to myself, "Wow, Andrew Bird looks, sounds, and acts way differently on his CD's than he does in concert." (It was dark, alright?) That's not to say I didn't like them; I actually thought their sound was really enjoyable. The lead singer, Emil Svanängen, has a great vocal range, which sounded best when layered with a number of instruments behind him (at one point, he sang without any accompaniment- probably the lowest point of the performance). His vocals kind of reminded me of Jonsi from Sigur Ros, but I couldn't compare the rest of the band and the overall sound in the same way- for one, they sing in English (though they do also try to speak in choppy English phrases they clearly picked up on right before the show). Check them out and draw your own conclusion; I'm only just starting to listen to them and really can't say much else.

Alright, so… Andrew Bird. For those of you who may not know his work, try to imagine the sound a classically trained violinist playing alongside the best whistler you know (perhaps the zip-a-dee-doo-da guy...or is that just me?). Then, add in a guitar and a xylophone. Finally, get a multi-track system to use for looping all of the aforementioned instruments, and there you've got what Andrew Bird sounds like. Strange, right? Trust me, the what results is one of the most unique sounds I've heard in a while. In fact, his uniqueness has gotten a good deal of attention lately- for one, he was recently on Letterman.

For those who are familiar with his work, you know how complicated the sound is. It's layered to the point where some instruments get lost in the mix- and that's what was so great about seeing him in concert. You had the opportunity witness firsthand an artist doing exactly what he does in the studio, adding whatever twist he felt like at any particular time. At one point, he recorded the cheering of the Bostonian crowd and began creating a song around it. I guess that means that I can say that I've been incorporated into an Andrew Bird track. Awesome.

I was unfamiliar with the majority of the stuff off of his latest, Noble Beast. It didn't really matter, though. I was far too preoccupied watching him create the song in front of me to care about singing along. However, he admitted to the audience that he knew we were waiting for tracks like "Imitosis"- playing that one perfectly (after about four attempts at getting the looping of the finger-plucking just right). My personal favorite track of his is "Tables and Chairs" off of his 2005 release The Mysterious Production of Eggs, so hearing that live was awesome, considering he spiced the song up a bit. Finally, as an expected encore he played fan-favorite "Fake Palindromes" (also off of Eggs), which sounded, well, just like it does on the CD.

Andrew Bird is just starting this tour, so even though there may have been a number of kinks in the show (Seriously, Ray Davies was there!..I wish..), the next few months look promising for him. He's going pretty much everywhere, so catch him if you can. Be sure to get a good seat- your going to want to watch his every move.


Here's Fitz & Dizzyspells off of Noble Beast.

Buy Noble Beast here

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