Andrew Bird @ Higher Ground, Burlington VT

Andrew Bird
Higher Ground
South Burlington, VT
September 28, 2007
by Laura Selkirk

From what I can tell, there are two reactions to Andrew Bird. The first is "Who?" The second usually includes some amount of excited yelping and clapping. Bird's albums are an eclectic mix of songs that are what pop music tries to be. Beautifully arranged and produced, there is no sense that various parts are included because they are part of a formula; everything in integral to the story telling process. Bird is not trying to make good music; he is, rather, wildly succeeding.

To be truthful, I was a bit worried about seeing him in concert. I wasn't sure if his songs could hold up without the layers that are present on his albums. Thankfully, if not a bit overwhelming at times, the layers were there. Bird will often start songs by creating the string sections from the ground up with multiple delay pedals and his violin. By the end of a song, there is an entire violin section accompanying him and his band. Many times effects were used to lower the pitch on violin loops turning them into a gut-vibrating sea of basses.

Bird may have been at his absolute best by himself. He played “Why” from 2001’s The Swimming Hour (when he still went by the moniker Andrew Bird’s Bowl Of Fire) as a solo, and turned it into an impromptu one-man show. He had the audience in fits of laughter as he reenacted the song as a conversation, playing both the exasperated and cool-and-calm character. He also used an old Fisher-Price See ‘n Say for his signature sound effect of chirping birds. Combined with his amazing voice and violin playing it may have been the best example of musical storytelling I have ever seen.

There is nothing accidental about Bird's stage presence. He will often pause for long moments as if in deliberation of his next move. Many songs had been given different rhythm to their lyrics, which went along with Bird's deliberations. At times, he would raise his hands in gesture to emphasize his words as though he was trying to tell us a very important point. Combined with his Causal Fridays outfit (replete with skinny tie) I could not shake the notion that this man had very relevant information.

Venue: http://www.highergroundmusic.com
Recent: Andrew Bird: Armchair Apocrypha

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