Andrew Bird at First Avenue, 12/02/10
December 2, 2010
First Avenue, Minneapolis
Andrew Bird gave his passionate fans that filled a sold-out First Avenue on a frigid Thursday night an intimate glimpse into what the sound and direction of his new album will be, debuting five new songs within his captivating hour and 45-minute set. And while the songs are still in their infancy (with Bird telling us a few of them were just recorded in the last day or two in the barn his band are rehearsing in), they clearly have a dynamic pulse and passion to them that clearly bodes well for his new record.
The older tracks fit in nicely and had an obvious spark to them as well, but it was quite riveting to see the band work through new material that was still so fresh for them. It was like we were all sitting in on a really polished rehearsal, as the band tried to (and did) nail these brand new numbers live for the first time.
The show began with Bird taking the stage solo as he opened with the experimental instrumental "You Woke Me Up," which featured Andrew looping his violin creatively while he added some free-form lyrics that reference "Keep Your Lamp Trimmed And Burning." It was a gloriously innovative way to kick off the night, and he kept the momentum going with a stunning version of "Why" that was jazz-like in its artistry and inventiveness. Bird was already completely lost in the moment, achieving a comfort level and ease that most artists work an entire show for, even though he sheepishly admitted after the song that he "had a little nervous energy to work out there."
The rest of Bird's all-local backing band (Martin Dosh on drums, Michael Lewis on bass, and Jeremy Ylvisaker on guitar) came out to join him for a stirring rendition of "Effigy" that only built on the energy Andrew had created on his own. The first of the new songs was next, a track that Bird has given the working title of "Danse Carribe." It was a spirited, jaunty number that was driven by Bird's stellar violin work as well as a sprightly rhythm. And while I enjoyed the other new numbers played during the set, "Danse Carribe" was clearly my favorite of the current batch of songs, and one of the night's many highlights.
"A Nervous Tic Motion Of The Head To The Left" gave the receptive crowd something a bit more familiar to work with, and the song soared, as did "Simple X," which Bird described as "an old song we haven't done since 2005. It's a Martin Dosh original." It was a splendid version, with Dosh leading the way with his adventurous drumming. Then came a bold trio of new songs: the mellow, sedated "Lazy Projector," which featured Bird on guitar, the more upbeat, Latin-flavored "Near Death Experience," after which Bird joked, "I knew something wasn't right. I forgot to take my boots off," and "Breeding Desperation," which featured J.T. Bates joining in on drums. The last song seemed really new to the group, so much so that Bird had to restart the song after introducing Bates to an audience that hopefully knew exactly who he was (especially after Alpha Consumer's entertaining opening set, which also featured Lewis and Ylvisaker as well as Bates).
Bates stuck around for another number, as the group covered the Alpha Consumer song "Crown Salesman," which was simply enormous sounding, with Lewis' fuzz-bass and the drum duo filling the club with their pleasing din. A real swinging version of "Imitosis" was next, and it found Bird bouncing adroitly between guitar and violin. It truly was a rollicking rendition, with the band bringing an edge to the song (and their whole performance, really) that was perhaps due to them taking advantage of the fact that they weren't playing in a church this time through the city, though many would say that First Ave is indeed a holy place.
"Eyeoneye" was the last of the new songs played during the set, and Bird introduced it by explaining: "We just recorded this song yesterday. It might take a while for this song to come out, and we just wanted to keep it alive by playing it for you tonight." It was a slow-burning, boisterous number that, like all the other new songs premiered throughout the night, promises good things are on their way with Bird's new record. "Lusitania" was introduced by Bird mentioning that he has spent a long time trying to "turn leading a country into a war into a metaphor for a wounded relationship." It was a delicate rendition, which featured a lovely, swelling crescendo towards the end that really resonated with the crowd. And, after turning down a couple requests for more somber songs, Bird and the band tore into a boisterous version of "Fake Palindromes" that closed out the main set on a euphoric high.
After a brief encore break, the band sauntered back out, with Bird excusing the band needlessly by stating that "We haven't done this in a while. We're a little rusty," before they played a rousing version of "Plasticities" that had both the crowd and the victrola horns spinning. Moving versions of "Fatal Shore" and "Tables And Chairs" slowed things down a bit, with Bird encouraging the band to pick up the tempo as "Tables" dragged towards the end, leading them on to a rousing, energetic finish of the track. "Don't Be Scared" closed the night wonderfully, as the band and the crowd all lost themselves in the beauty of the number.
I'm sure there were some fans that were disappointed that he didn't play some more familiar songs during his set, but the rare and significant glimpse Bird gave the audience into his creative process and the flourishing development of his new songs is sure to make this a truly memorable performance for all of us who witnessed it.
Critic's Bias: Definitely a fan, but it's been a few years since I've seen Bird live. He's a genuine maestro.
The Crowd: Packed in for warmth and clearly under Andrew's spell from the moment he stepped on stage.
Overheard In The Crowd: "It looks like those people are having seizures, or is that dancing?"
Random Notebook Dump: The lyrics in Alpha Consumer's song "I Need A Gun"--"I need a gun to protect my other, more expensive gun," had me laughing all night long. The local trio delivered an absorbing opening set that I thoroughly enjoyed.
For More Photos: See our full slideshow by Stacy Schwartz.
Intro/You Woke Me Up
Danse Carribe (New)
A Nervous Tic Motion Of The Head To The Left
Lazy Projector (New)
Near Death Experience (New)
Breeding Desperation (New)
Crown Salesman (Alpha Consumer)
Fatal Shore (Encore)
Tables And Chairs (Encore)
Don't Be Scared (Encore)
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