Andrew Bird w/ Eugene Mirman @ The Riverside Theater
March 24, 2012
The most captivating feature in Andrew Bird's repertoire remains his ability to loop his instruments effectively. Building polyrhythms from scratch in front of audiences is clearly nerve-racking, as one tiny mistake can unravel an entire beat. That preciseness means a musician can't coast his way through a performance, while also ensuring no gig sounds exactly the same. His latest record, this month's Break It Yourself, was even captured using those same methods live in his western Illinois barn. So, of course, that chaotic spirit favored heavily into Andrew Bird's set at the Riverside Theater on Saturday night. But somewhat unpredictably near night's close, the violin and whistling virtuoso relinquished his pedals and amplifier in favor of a traditional folk jam with his two bandmates, the three of them singing all into one microphone.
The simplicity seemed foreign coming from a musician that requires a couple minutes to create a song's framework before starting the actual song, but Bird pulled off the five folk tunes with ease (including covers of Townes Van Zandt's "If I Needed You" and Charley Patton's "I'm Going Home.") The aside even helped mitigate Bird's general onstage awkwardness through sharing the spotlight with other players. It was a welcomed break from the chaos, as well, but Bird still remained at his best when crafting lush instrumental loops. Often his band would diverge into weird, free jazz compositions. The remainder of his set was spent with his more straightforward pop songs ("Eyeoneye," "Measuring Cups"), as he bridged the experimental with the accessible.
Since disbanding his old outfit Bowl of Fire and going solo in 2003, Bird has steadily been adding members to his new act. First incorporating drummer Dosh, who percussion and synthesizer loops allowed for extra depth, and now with two other backing members, Bird has been able to accomplish different methods of getting his songs across to an audience. His pedals aren't the only focal point anymore. He will still embark on rhythmic sonic improvisations, but Saturday night he proved he can carry a good old folk tune, as well.
Brooklyn comedian Eugene Mirman astutely commented on social media and the Tea Party during his short opening routine. His use of small printouts proved burdensome for the spacious theater, however. Perhaps it was a joke in of itself, but he could've at least made the photocopies tiny enough so even the first rows strained their eyes, too.
Photo credit: CJ Foeckler