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- Andrew Bird »
I’d seen Andrew Bird just the night before this show: he was on a bill alongside both Bill Callahan (Smog) and Joanna Newsom. He impressed, even in the company of such huge names, and not just because his solo act consisted of a huge amount more than just vocals and guitar (or harp, in Newsom’s case). Armed with several delay pedals, a violin, guitar, glockenspiel, a rich, steady voice, and the best whistle I’ve ever heard, he really crafted something unique.
At The Basement, solo, he played a much longer set; nearly an hour and a half, in fact. He juggled the same myriad instruments from the previous night, although ‘juggled’ perhaps isn’t the word. I’d heard that his shows were fairly frantic in terms of instrument-swapping, but even though it was frenetic it sounded seamless. I’ve never seen someone so masterfully use delay pedals. Looping violin (bow and finger picking) – sometimes three or four layers of this at once – is joined by further layers of vocals and whistling (amazing! An instrument in itself); a glockenspiel is fed in, too.
This could possibly be perceived as maybe a little gimmicky through simply reading about it. Live, it’s not: I found it inventive and, most of all, beautiful. It’s about building things up, pushing them higher and then dropping back to even more serene landscapes. It was terrific to see classically trained musicianship meet indie-rock in such fitting ways.
It was a very long set, though, and I’m not sure if it was seeing him two nights in row that made the last third drag or how hot and cramped The Basement was. I was surprised when I found a lot of his material, new and old, sometimes sounding far too similar. This was possibly because the previous night’s set showcased a wide variety in a short space of time, and this time around the idiosyncrasies became a little too much when stretched over a longer period. Still, it was nothing short of transcendent, especially tracks played from the forthcoming_ Armchair Apocrypha_ album. That’s something to look forward to.
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