05 February, 2009

Andrew Bird at the Orpheum

As I wrote earlier, Andrew Bird is one of my favorite musicians and I finally got the chance to see him live. He never made it to Boston for the tour after his 2007 album Armchair Apocrypha. In December 2007 he played at Lupo's in Providence which is just a short train ride from the Ruggles station in Boston. Tickets weren't sold out and I really wanted to go but it was a school night and I decided that writing a paper for my philosophy class was probably the wiser choice. On Friday Bird apologized to the Boston crowd for not having played a show here in a few years and told us that it wouldn't happen again.

The night started off for me at TCs Lounge with McKenna, Kevin and Katy. I had wanted to see the opening band Loney, Dear but the four of us hadn't sat down together in a while and we ended up drinking beer through the first set. Shortly after getting a second beer two plain-clothes police officers walked up to the table, showed us their badges and asked for our IDs. Boston has notoriously strict drinking laws but I had never experienced this before. A friend told me that TCs used to be the place to go when you were underage so my guess is that the bar got in trouble before and now gets surprise visits by BPD.

We got to the Orpheum just in time to grab a beer and head to our seats, right as Andrew Bird and his band started warming up on stage. The stage was set up with several enormous gramophones placed in different spots around the stage. As the band began to play the gramophones behind Andrew Bird started spinning. It made for a cool stage prop.

Bird played a lot of songs from his newest album, Noble Beast which had only just been released. I got to hear my two favorite songs from the album that I had mentioned in the last blog post. Surprisingly enough the song that seemed to impact me most was Oh No which he had written about for the New York Times. It was amazing to hear the song live as I thought back to how it evolved from a tune he whistled into the full band piece in front of us. I had a smile on my face for most of the song even though it's not one of my favorite tunes.

There were quite a few mistakes and technical snafus throughout the show. Bird uses looping pedals for certain songs, similar to what Howie Day uses. He'll tap the pedal to start recording, play a small piece on violin or guitar that can be looped and tap the pedal again to stop recording and play the loop. Bird messed up the piece he was supposed to loop once and had to stop and re-record it. At another point I think he failed to tap the pedal at the right moment and again had to stop the song and begin anew. His use of several different instruments throughout the show is really cool and shows how talented he is but also lead to problems. During one song he didn't switch from guitar to violin fast enough, leading to a momentary lull in the music. His band kept playing the same few bars until he got the violin out and began the solo. Bird apologized for these but seemed at ease with himself and the crowd cheered him on. If that had happened to me I would have been mortified but I guess that's why he's a famous musician and I am not. That and the fact that I can't really play any instruments other than trombone, which I haven't touched in years.

Bird talked to the crowd occasionally during the set and one thing he said stuck out in my mind so I quickly jotted it down. He had just made one of the mistakes I just mentioned and he began talking about the new album. "It's nice, kind, bubbly and refrained, because that's what it has to be. But when we play it live it's total mayhem." It wasn't mayhem but I liked his description of the new album in comparison to the last. He played a couple of songs from the older album including Plasticities. The first encore song was a really old song called Why which went back to the days before his solo career. I had predicted he would play Measuring Cups as an encore, which was one of the first songs that got me hooked on Andrew Bird but he didn't come through.

The show was a lot of fun although I was surprised that everyone remained seated through the performance. I realize that Andrew Bird isn't as rockin' as Vampire Weekend but I can't help but bob my head and tap my foot to the music. Even doing that I felt out of place as everyone around me was sitting still in their seats. Towards the end of the show two girls in the very front row stood up and started dancing and a few other people did the same but most remained seated until the encore. The only other show I've been to where everyone sat through the performance was Joanna Newsom. That made sense though; as beautiful as her music is, dancing to a harp might be a little weird.

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