December 9, 2010

Andrew Bird - Sixth and I - December 6, 2010

Lots and Lots of Loops

Andrew Bird, that wordy whistler, performed the first of three nights at historic Sixth and I Synagogue under his Gezelligheid series on Monday.  I expected violin runs, I expected perfectly-pitched whistling, and even expected the bizarre opener.  But what I didn't expect was the army of loopers and pedals employed to create the illusion of a real-live band.  Oy vey.

The opener, Julianna Barwick... well I'm going to do a compliment sandwich.  Her voice is pretty spectacular - she's got a great range with a smooth tone.   But the new age chanting via loop pedals is a little hackneyed.  I mean she was all up Enya.   It was a bit like listening to a chorus - where each member enters in order - and sings the exact same 4 notes - for 8 minutes.  Now another compliment: what great arrangments she is capable of hearing. Seems to me she would be better as a writer/arranger/singer than a "band".

Andrew Bird came out as scheduled at 9:00 PM and didn't stop plucking, strumming, singing, bowing for 90 minutes.  His setup was fairly elaborate for a solo show, but it became clear very early that he was going to build soundscapes and layer the voices of his songs all himself.  His staging included the signature Victorla horn speakers and his now infamous Janus Horn whirly.  It was actually quite beautiful with the light work they had setup.  There were panels of pedals laid out on the floor to aid in the looping.  And there was lots of looping.

Ultimately, it was not a casual fans' show.  Bird played little that was recognizable from his recent albums, relying on new, obscure and non-album tracks to build the setlist.  He admitted very early on that this series was more of a palette on which he could do more instrumentation and experimentation than his popular tunes allowed in-concert.  This was both a thrill and a letdown.  To see such a unique musical performance was exciting.  To not hear some of his more potable works in such an intimate setting was disappointing.  You can see the score card for more insight--pics to follow shortly.  In this writers HO, the show was incredibly self-indulgent but not altogether unenjoyable.

Set list:
You Woke Me Up
Nyatiti (aborted)
Oh Baltimore
Hole in the Ocean Floor
Carrion Suite
Breeding Desperation
Selective Memory
Crown Salesman (Jeremy Ylvisaker)
The Giant of Illinois
Section 8 City
Song in 13
The Fatal Shore/Goin’ Home (Charley Patton)

Setlist from  Thanks guys!

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