Saturday, June 25, 2011

Andrew Bird At the University of Michigan

This weekend at the University of Michigan I was able to witness first hand the web weavings of Andrew Bird’s music and words. One listen to songs like Effigy or Tenuousness (click "tenuousness" to see a live performance) prove his status as a wordsmith. However, to fully appreciate his abilities as a composer, you simply must experience him live. His labyrinth of instruments and innovative sound effects truly are a journey. Occasionally, he will confess his uncertainty of where the journey may take the listener and himself. This was a refreshing display of his modest stage presence amid such a plethora of talent. His mistakes were shrugged off his own shoulders with a laugh that demonstrated the ability to balance taking his work seriously and taking himself less seriously.

During performances Bird swayed like a self-made metronome. He seemed to disappear so deeply into songs. It appeared he must split and multiply his brain in order to handle the many tasks he gave it as he layered, looped and built tracks note by note. There is no band. It’s just Bird, a guitar, a violin, xylophone, and some sort of spinning phonograph on steroids, looping pedals, those whistling lips and simple, melodic voice. It’s overwhelming and at the same time soporific listening.

The layered song/ one-man show is common with many capable musicians of late (see Imogen Heap, Oh Land, Zoe Keating, etc.). However, he takes the effect to a higher plateau, evoking the Suzuki method of musical training he received (and I’m sure a collection of a million other factors that make him who he is) to rise above the conventional talent of a decent musician who knows how to work computerize equipment.

When he comes to your area make the extra effort to experience Andrew Bird. Among any number of shows that it could be said are “good”, “great” or even “awesome”, his stands apart as a tapestry of sound and lyricism.