Andrew Bird | 4.17.07

After Martin Dosh took the stage to craft a percussive medley, the gentle-natured Bird joined in a tan suit, looking parts Ichabod Crane and boy-next-door.

 

The Pageant, St. Louis

Andrew Bird has been around. At tonight's show, Bird noted that he has been coming to this city for ten years. Yet, only recently has the 33-year-old singer-songwriter been able to draw such a devoted crowd as the note-by-note enthusiasts who witnessed his ever-progressing show. With the help of looping drummer/keyboardist Martin Dosh as well as guitarist/bassist Jeremy Ylvisaker, Bird built on the success and framework of his most recent release, Armchair Apocrypha, stacking layers upon layers of impressive musicianship until the audience's collective minds were satisfyingly blown.

After Dosh took the stage to craft a percussive medley, the gentle-natured Bird joined in a tan suit, looking parts Ichabod Crane and boy-next-door. As fans of the classically trained musician know, Bird utilizes his own looping techniques to weave both bowed and pizzicato violin around electric guitar, glockenspiel, and masterful whistling, all while singing/narrating with the greatest of ease and the least of self-awareness. Even when a couple of spoiled fans shouted to get rid of a couple of photographers, Bird kept his quiet cool, saying, "I hadn't noticed."

With a giant, zebra-striped phonograph horn at his back and another two horns miked and spinning, Bird began his show appropriately with the Armchair track "Imitosis" (adapted from its earlier version, "I"). From there on, the night's setlist revolved primarily around Armchair songs, save only for three off of 2005's critically acclaimed Mysterious Production of Eggs ("Skin Is, My," "Tables and Chairs," and the rarely performed "The Naming of Things), The Swimming Hour's "Why?," and the unreleased track, "Dear Dirty." With his recent two albums being the most alike of all those throughout his eclectic canon, Bird seems to have identified his style, and thus his recent shows have focused on the continued mastery of new material. I have yet to see a performance of his that has featured a balance of his work, (which someday would be nice) but for now, it's impressive enough to see how naturally the Illinoisan can adapt this new material into something entirely different, something bigger, and possessing greater emotion.

The standout tracks of the night belonged to the middle portion of Armchair Apocrypha, with the Letterman-performed "Plasticities" bringing a frantic introduction to the mix, "Armchairs" providing an epic, unsettling beauty with Bird shadowed by back-lighting and swirling fog, and the melodies of "Simple X" putting the audience in a trance. Live staple, "Why?," was the first of two songs in Bird's encore and supplied a palette for Bird to show off his violin skills. Fan-favorite "Tables and Chairs" got the greatest applause at its inception, but the astute audience was much more appreciative of the performance's more authentic moments, which were frequent and less predictable. In the studio, Bird is fascinating, inventive, and capable of creating pure bliss. As a live performer, however, all of these qualities are intensified, and this is what makes a great musician worthy of constant attention. What will he come up with next? I suggest you follow along. | Dave Jasmon

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