Andrew Bird at State Theatre, 12/17/12
Photo by Tony Nelson
Andrew Bird with Fat Kid Wednesdays
State Theatre, Minneapolis
Monday, December 17, 2012
Andrew Bird said in an interview about his shows, "There's a lot going on. You can either close your eyes and let it wash over you, or you can pay attention to all the tricky things we're doing." Depending on which route you took, it was a vastly different show to the audience for the singer's last night of the tour at the State Theatre.
Opening solo with just his violin on an instrumental piece, Andrew created an orchestra looping sounds around his violin, whistling, and his spinning double horned speakers. Everything Bird does is poetic, from his movements to his playing to his lyrics. The performer, which is the best way to describe him, is lost in his own world when he plays. Short on conversation, the show leaned heavily on his new album, Break It Yourself, an album that has Andrew returning to his sound from his fourth album Armchair Apocrypha.
Joined by his band, Andrew said to the crowd, "Hey, everybody. I'm so happy," segueing into "A Nervous Tic," a song that slowly builds around his band's subtle performance. Solo, Bird is captivating, but that's not to take away from the talents of his backing band of Jeremy Yvlisaker with his haunting guitar, Alan Hampton on bass and backing vocals that complement Bird's voice perfectly, and the refined and restrained playing on percussion -- sometimes organ -- of Martin Dosh.
Photos by Tony Nelson
Introducing an old song, "Fiery Crash," Bird said to the captivated audience, "This is the last show of the tour, but it feels like a hometown show. We're winding down, but it feels like a ceremonious time." The singer's album plays like a live show, but it's amazing to watch a maestro bring out the sounds that live in the air.
The last time a lead singer whose main instrument was the violin, although hers is a fiddle, came through town was Alison Krauss and her lovely soprano voice. While Krauss likes to play with a clean sound, Andrew uses everything within reach to create sound distortion, from using his violin as a guitar to his special speakers -- that look like flowers -- which act like a fifth member of the band.
For the "old-timey portion" of the show, save Dosh, the band gathered around one mic to perform an acoustic set. Bird's production cleverness shows through in songs like "Give It Away," with its numerous tempo changes and "Sovay." The band even threw in the rare "Meet Me Here at Dawn," a piece that Andrew says, "We haven't done this one before." "Railroad Bill" is a bluesy number from the new album that tells the story of said Bill. If the acoustic set was the highlight of the show, Bird's single "Three White Horses" was the icing of a delicious layer cake. The song opens softly with Andrew's staccato violin, building to a crescendo with his band, most notably Jeremy's eerie guitar solo.
There were times when Andrew did dig into his older material via "Plasticities" and the last song of the regular set, "Tables and Chairs," where Andrew switched instruments like musical chairs, almost as if he was unsure of where to go with the piece. He even had the audience chuckling when setting down his violin and grabbing for his guitar, he said, "Hold on a second. Listen."
For the anticipated encore, the band returned to the single mic for "If I Needed You," which Bird had performed on Letterman, and closed with the hymn-like "Happy Day," a song that sums up how people only hope they could live with the lyrics "I hope I live before I die some day, Oh, some day I hope there's tears of joy I cry." The imagery in Andrew Bird's lyrics evoke a painter creating a masterpiece, adding layers and layers to form a piece that lives with you long after everyone has left the theater.
Critic's bias: It's too bad I already turned in my list of best concerts for the year. This show would certainly have been at the top.
The crowd: An older MPR-listening crowd.
Overheard in the crowd: "This guy is fucking amazing."
Random notebook dump: Fat Kid Wednesdays was excellent, but I always feel like I should be eating a steak and drinking a beer when I listen to jazz music.
Hole in the Ocean Floor
The Naming of Things
A Nervous Tic
Orpheo Looks Back
Give It Away
When That Helicopter Comes
Meet Me Here at Dawn
Three White Horses
Tables and Chairs
If I Needed You
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