This was, I think, the fourth time I’ve seen Andrew Bird play live. Every performance has been amazing, but this was the best. He was totally in the zone, giving it everything and playing with a precision that I think was missing when I last saw him, in Amsterdam in 2011. (His head may have been elsewhere that night…) He also looked great and seemed to be enjoying himself, which hasn’t always been the case previously.
He played with a guitarist and a drummer, both brilliant in their own right, and between the three of them (with Bird, as usual, on violin, guitar, glockenspiel, whistling and vocals) they delivered a night of musical heaven – for me at least, and, it seemed, a good portion of the two-thirds full venue.
Andrew Bird is, without doubt, one of my very favourite songwriters and performers. He’s incredibly prolific, delivering more than an album per year (or at least it feels like that), each one moving his sound forward, while remaining unmistakeably his catchy self. He drew from right across his back catalogue for this gig, including – a first for me – a performance of A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left, which is the song that first got me into him back in 2004 or so.
Another personal highlight was the opening track, Pulaski at Night, which I had heard for the first time on the radio the evening before and which keeps popping back into my head ever since. I also loved Tenuousness, Tables and Chairs and, during the encore, a lovely rendition of My Sister’s Tiny Hands, from his most recent collection of songs by The Handsome Family.
I think I can confidently say that anyone that likes music will enjoy seeing Andrew Bird live. His use of loop pedals to build up mini folk-pop masterpieces needs to be seen and heard to be believed; the way he uses the violin in particular is quite stunning. His recorded output is really worth exploring too – I would start with The Mysterious Production of Eggs, but that’s just me.
His support act were a Geneva based quartet called Quiet Island – and they were very, very good. They reminded me a lot of Fleet Foxes, but there were also echos of the Mamas and the Papas, The Beach Boys, Simon & Garfunkel, etc., all while sounding young and fresh. Their four-part harmony singing was at times glorious – think The Beatles “Because” – and some of the acoustic guitar playing was really excellent. The lyrics, too, were pretty good, particularly for a band that’s writing in their second language.
Here’s a particularly Fleet Fox-ish track from Geneva’s Quiet Island:
Here’s Andrew Bird doing a really nice version of Danse Caribe (with some brilliant violin/fiddle playing). If you don’t have the patience skip to 1:45…
Here he is on his current tour, singing Three White Horses.
And here’s a lovely performance from Andrew Bird of Pulaski at Night. (Skip to 00:44 – and stick with it!)