This is a confession. I am relatively new to Andrew Bird. While Frank can claim something closer to a personal relationship -- and Allen, another of our colleagues, is certainly on a backstage basis -- I (being the only contributer to this blog with a computer at the moment), until recently, only knew what I'd read about Andrew Bird, and own only his newest album, Armchair Apocrypha. That was remedied Thursday evening, when I caught up with Frank and Allen at Atlanta's Variety Playhouse for a full-on (sold out) Andrew Bird show. Thus, even though I feel least qualified to submit this post . . . here goes.
To paraphrase Prince and Sinead O'Conner, nothing really compares to Andrew Bird, and I am extremely glad (tired as I was after hanging out with Neil Finn the night before) that I made this show. Andrew Bird is actually something of a musical savant. A classically-trained violinist, he is even more impressive building the loops that create the illusion that he is backed by a small orchestra, switching as he does -- often on a dime -- between the violin and guitar. His music is otherworldly, although extremely sweet and surprisingly hooked-filled. Another aspect of his music that is somewhat unusual is his regularly featured whistling, which is on display far more often than even by Peter, Bjorn & John or Andy Griffith. The man can flat out whistle.
As a live act, Bird constructs layers of loops at the beginning of each song, and it is actually a thing of beauty to watch him launch them into action, traversing the stage to different microphones, pedals, and rotating speakers. In this respect, he is perhaps more craftsman than showman, but nonetheless endlessly entertaining. Most importantly, although his music is decidedly off the beaten path, it's not terribly challenging; its relatively accessible and terribly enjoyable. Added to that is a great voice that is equal parts David Byrne, Bryan Ferry, and Jeff Buckley. Not a bad combination.
Like growing up in Mississippi and having to see a hockey game live to appreciate its beauty, it really wasn't until I saw Andrew Bird live this week that I fully appreciated his incredible talent. Now I can't stop listening to Armchair Apocrypha, which, if you haven't heard by now, you simply must. And go see him live as soon as possible.
MP3: Andrew Bird - "Dark Matter" from Armchair Apocrypha
YouTube: Andrew Bird - "Plasticities" on the David Letterman Show