Andrew Bird | 3.15.09

andrewbird09.jpgHis albums are so perfect sounding and his live shows are so flawless that it is kind of neat to see the cracks.



The Pageant, St. Louis, MO

Years ago, one of my friends who sees a lot more shows than I do told me that Andrew Bird is his single favorite live performer. My first time seeing Andrew was two years ago on his tour to promote Armchair Apocrypha, and I wasn’t disappointed-his sound live is as full and perfect—sounding as it is on his albums, but he does everything himself, recording loops to back himself at the beginning of his songs, playing multiple instruments, etc. What few non-Bird people are onstage with him are just as capable—drummer/beatmaker Dosh among them (though Andrew has played many shows in St. Louis strictly solo)—so it makes for a pretty flawless evening. Anyone who doubts the veracity of the statements regarding the quality of Bird’s live shows should YouTube LaBlogotheque’s video of him playing "Spare-Ohs" in the streets of Montmartre or the video of him and Dosh doing "Simple X" at Bonnaroo. His stop this past Sunday, this time to promote his album Noble Beast, was just as good, if not better.

Andrew’s overall sound this time was actually probably better than I had heard in the past, but the show suffered a little bit from the fact that Noble Beast is his worst album in many years. It isn’t horrible, mind you, and a number of the highlights of the night certainly came from it (a solid "Oh No" and the layered, noisy, almost-Radiohead-ish "Not a Robot, But a Ghost" come immediately to mind), but Noble Beast‘s relative mediocrity amounted to all of the very best songs of the night being ones that he had played last time around, so good thing that his sound somehow improved on seeming perfection this time around. The two-song encore, while fantastic, was (if my memory serves me) the exact same encore he played last time he was in town-The Swimming Hour‘s "Why?" and Mysterious Production of Eggs‘ "Tables & Chairs" (which might be my single favorite song of his).

One particularly heartening thing about the evening was to hear Bird occasionally mess up. His albums are so perfect sounding and his live shows are so flawless that it is kind of neat to see the cracks. There were a couple instances in the night where a loop didn’t quite go how he wanted it to, so he’d stop a minute or so into a song, re-record the loop, and start over. (He had particular trouble with Weather Systems‘ "Lull.") This sounds minor, but I don’t remember him having to do that even once last time he was in town, and also, amazingly, the flubbed loops sounded very, very close to perfect themselves. So even the most minor of mistakes added a lot to the appreciation of Bird’s craft as a musician, and the depths of his perfectionism.

The circumstances this time were quite nice, too; I was pleased to find that the show sold out, and the audience was into the show to the point that many times I thought they were trying to out-whistle Andrew. About three-quarters of the way into the show, a drunken fellow behind me told his friend that "[Andrew] is so good, he reminds [him] of six different artists at the same time." Opening the show was Heartless Bastards, who put on a pretty mean show, and whose band name allowed them to come out on stage and say "We’re Heartless Bastards." | Pete Timmermann

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