REVIEW: Andrew Bird at the Riverside Theater

Photo by Melissa Miller

A funky timewarp of simple tunes with an amazing orchestral sound. That’s probably the best way to describe Andrew Bird last night at the Riverside Theater. What I thought was lacking in crowd participation made up for showmanship and harmonious sound. Every once in awhile it’s nice to be reminded that some shows don’t require intense audience participation to stand out. It reminded me of an actual orchestral show, but in this case, it was 5 artists and an elaborate background. 

The Band

Andrew Bird is a multi-instrumentalist powerhouse of talent. Since making music since the 90’s Bird established himself as someone who clearly isn’t afraid to shake things up. Sticking mainly his violin, guitar, piercing whistle and his band he cultivates a sound that is unmatched by any artist out there today. Bird’s sound can be described as Indie/folk-rock with a touch of Americana in it. There’s something about his music that I find non-existent in modern-day music. While lyrically deep, Andrew Bird really shines in his orchestral sound that blends violin, acoustic guitar, glockenspiel, and a powerhouse of a drum to really keep the songs moving along.

 

Photo by Melissa Miller

The Experience

Fresh off his latest record, My Finest Work Yet, Andrew Bird was there for one thing, to play an incredible sounding show that rarely stopped to take in his surroundings. Walking out to the stage, presented behind what I can only describe as a Tim Burton-esque doorway Bird simply picked up his violin and began plucking it like a tiny guitar. Following suit, the rest of the band joined ranks and opened with an orchestral instrumental interlude. The interlude was hauntingly beautiful as the elaborate set spiraled almost as if we were being hypnotized. This actually might’ve happened, because almost two hours later Andrew Bird wrapped up and I didn’t even realize we were there for that long.

Following his interlude, he jumped into his most recent hit, Sisyphus, and really set the show off with what was harmonic bliss. As I was taking in the environment I couldn’t help but notice that this show was a little different. Almost no one was moving in their seats or singing along with the songs that I felt were fairly popular. Typically I need audience participation to be a part of my experience, which is what really stood out to me about Bird, it’s all about him. I mean that in the best way possible. The audience was clearly mesmerized by what was happening. In some instances, it felt that it was just you and the band and he was playing just for you. 

He played much of his new album upfront, with a few older songs sprinkled in for good measure. But once his newer stuff was over, it was almost as if Bird felt the most comfortable. Sort of like he thought the promotional time of the show is over. That’s where I felt Andrew Bird truly come alive. Throughout the entire show, Bird carried himself with this sort of jazz-like cool backed up by his troupe of background that was clear they were firing on all cylinders. With each song end, the switch to their next instrument was flawless. Bird transitioned from guitar to violin effortlessly as he plucked his way through the set and back to sliding his bow across the violin. 

Photo by Melissa Miller

I was amazed at how this show of 5 people made it seem like I was witnessing a full orchestra in the Riverside. It was almost like an elegant dance that didn’t let up at any point. As the show concluded I couldn’t believe that he played for almost 2 hours. It ended with the entire crowd standing up at the same time almost as everyone snapped out of the hypnosis and cheered Andrew Bird back on stage for a two-song encore with Pulaski At Night as the final song. 

The Verdict

I feel like I’m still mulling over what happened last night. It was beautiful. It was haunting. It was different from what I expected. And then when it was over I was left amazed. Compared to some of the let’s say cocky singer-songwriters out there right now, Andrew Bird accomplishes with extreme polish and fluidity that many performers will never achieve. I still can hear his piercing bird-like whistle in my head right now. Andrew Bird is not to be missed for any person who is a fan indie rock or just damn good music.

Setlist:

  • Instrumental Intro
  • Sisyphus
  • Bloodless
  • Olympians
  • Cracking Codes
  • Fallorun
  • Truth Lies Low
  • Roma Fade
  • Archipelago
  • Proxy War
  • Manifest
  • Don The Struggle
  • Bellevue Bridge Club
  • Give It Away
  • Left Handed Kisses
    (with Madison Cunningham) 
  • Orpheo Looks Back
  • Lusitania
    (with Madison Cunningham)
  • Three White Horses
  • Capsized

    Encore:
  • Railroad Bill
  • Pulaski at Night
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One comment

  • Very well written! I bared witness from right center, row F, and felt like I was one of the only people excited and moving uncontrollably in my seat, standing ovation for every song, possibly a minor nuisance to some folks next to me. He is as amazing and mesmerizing as ever, and his synergy with Madison Cunningham was palpable. This show marked a decade of attending Bird shows, dating back to the Opera House in Chicago in April 2009 (whence he dropped and broke his violin in his last song), and back to back nights @ Pabst in October 2009, this it was a tiny, tiny bummer he did not mix in a few more classic tunes. Yet your verdict here speaks to what should be truth for everyone who was at this show. For anyone reading who has not listened to this man, or seen him perform live, do not miss your next chance.

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