Live Last Night: Andrew Bird


About the time of "Weather Systems," listening to Andrew Bird records became akin to eating a pile of steamed crabs: a lot of work for intermittent moments of deliriously succulent pleasure. But in the car, on earphones or even via webcast, the work of picking through his craggy violins, copious chamber pop threads and straight-outta-science-club lyrics can be enjoyable. In an overcrowded concert room -- like, say, the sold-out 9:30 club on Tuesday night -- it's considerably less pleasant.

(Read the rest of the review after the jump.)

Of course, Bird has never pretended to be Iggy Pop -- he's the uber sexy nerd, a violin-playing Bill Nye with a pinch of Walt Whitman. Not since Bing Crosby has whistling elicited so many female screams. And with his jazz pedigree, he has little use for strict interpretation: On Tuesday, he toyed with the tempos of nearly every one of the tunes from his latest, "Noble Beast," whose songs dominated the nearly two-hour show.

Yet it was telling that one of the night's biggest responses came after his amusing post-song explanation of "Effigy," an indication that what Bird's growing audience values most is simply being with him; what he does to the songs they adore doesn't matter as much.

The show wasn't without minor musical revelations, however. Both "Tenuousness" and "Anonanimal" were lush and propulsive, rare instances in which Bird's three-piece band did more than strum numbly along. And the swirling "Fake Palindromes" was intoxicating, still his best live number.

Nevertheless, the concert's overriding vibe was stasis. Bird, who has mostly moved past his one-man, sample-and-hold performance phase, seems to be groping for the next evolutionary plateau for his live show (the oversized gramophone-horn stage props being the most obvious tip-off). Until he finds it, "Noble Beast" will make a far better private than communal experience.


By J. Freedom du Lac |  February 4, 2009; 11:45 AM ET Live Last Night
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