Published Apr 11, 2012Playing himself on with some ambient glockenspiel, Chicago-based composer and multi-instrumentalist Andrew Bird started his show with a subdued bang, looping and flashing a little of his immeasurable fiddle prowess before bringing out the rest of his touring band. There is no doubt that Bird is skilled enough to handle an entire set with just a violin, a few pedals and his sweet, honest voice. As skilled as his backing band were, all three appearing to be capable multi-instrumentalists, the star of the show was indeed the star of the show.
Yet, for all his abilities, Bird had such a casual air about him, engaging the crowd on a shuffling "aw, shucks" level. He made quirky, droll comments here and there, discussed the old days when he'd perform barefoot, and thanked a section of the crowd for enthusiastically helping to snap out a beat. When he sang, though, there was no joking around. His voice was stunning, and even his whistling came off as iconic as the theme to The Andy Griffith Show.
Primarily pulling from his most recent album Break It Yourself, several compositions took on an almost gypsy troubadour style, the sort of bittersweet crooning one expects from DeVotchka, while other deliveries were more pointed and insightful. Bird was exceptionally theatrical for his version of the classic Kermit the Frog tune "Bein' Green," which he had recorded for Muppets: The Green Album.
There was a particularly riveting section about halfway through the set that Bird dubbed "old timey," as the band went unplugged and gathered around a single mic closest to the drum kit. In this arrangement, the cover of "So Much Wine" by the Handsome Family seemed timeless. There were a few sound problems, specifically hints of feedback during this section and an amp rattle so gnarly it almost sounded like a cymbal, but the power of the immense talent on stage channelling their skill into Bird's thoughtful arrangements easily won out.