Andrew BirdEdit this event
Doors are not long opened, but already a sizeable crowd has flocked through the doors of Belfast’s Speakeasy, gathered in anticipation of Andrew Bird, onetime Swing Jazz musician and a classically trained violinist, whose boundless imagination and distinctive song mark him out as a truly rare breed. Support tonight is provided by Martin Dosh, percussionist in Bird’s band and, left to his own devices, the creator of some rather gratifying, if raggedy, electronica.
Keys and percussion are looped as Dosh creates basic collages, instrumental motifs ebb and flow, and it all feels rather fragmented; but then the pieces drop into place, and the jigsaw begins to offer up something recognisable. Often tune is sacrificed at the altar of tone, but when it works, as on ‘Circles and Squares’, it is mesmeric. Here the cyclical swish and swirl gives way and the tantalising promise of melody is made abundantly good. Dosh leaves taking a healthy and deserved smattering of applause with him.
The first thing Andrew Bird does when he takes the stage is whistle. And boy can he whistle. The range, the timbre, the ability to create mood by, yes, giving a little whistle, is astounding. Add in violin, guitar, hand claps and percussion and you have a thrilling menagerie of sound. Bird coaxes the most unusual sounds from that violin, sometimes playing it as if it were a ukulele – ‘Fiery Crash’ is potent, carried on the uplifting swoosh of the violin it soars resplendent towards the sun.
‘Measuring Cups’ overflows with melody, words put through the wringer of that gorgeously textured voice to emerge slathered in honeyed heartache. Throughout Dosh’s precise drumming and the twanging guitar of Jeremy Ylvisaker create a framework which Bird overlays with tuneful caresses of violin and voice. There is a startling rendition of ‘Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left’, replete with nervous tic action: it manages to be both funny and affecting.
There is real joy in this performance and in these songs._ ‘Imitosis’ and ‘Simple’ are exquisite, Bird conjuring images and emotions capable of knotting the valves in your heart, whilst _‘Heretics’ is an inevitable wow.
At one point Bird tells us that he’s “heard about Sunday nights in Belfast”. Maybe, but I can’t recall hearing a Sunday night quite like this before.