[Freelance writer Greg Caruso reports from Friday’s show at the Greek Theatre:]
By Greg Caruso
Under the still night air and nestled snug among the trees of Griffith Park, Andrew Bird strolled up to his hodgepodge of instruments and pedals. Wearing a baby-blue blazer over a pink button-down shirt, he kicked off his shoes and began to whistle. Then, using his signature style of looping himself, he whistled, fiddled, strummed and sang his way through “Why?” With each wave of his hands, tilt of his head, poignant pauses and shifts in time signature, Bird set the tone of how multi-faceted the evening would be Friday at the Greek Theatre.
After bandmates Martin Dosh (drums/keys), Jeremy Ylvisaker (guitar) and Mike Lewis (bass) came onto stage midway through “Dark Matter,” the night took some curious turns. Firstly, acknowledging that it was Mr. Bird’s birthday in a few short hours, most of the Greek sang “Happy Birthday.” Clearly taken aback, he mentioned that it wasn’t for a few hours, put his hands on his chest, and said that he was touched. After versions of “Fiery Crash” and “Opposite Day,” it became clear that there were technical problems that needed to be addressed. It seemed that there was a glitch somewhere in the communal looping that Bird and Dosh frequently use. For a moment, it was like a magician revealing certain trade secrets while the frontman explained the amount of looping and the interplay between him and Dosh throughout most songs. As he digressed, the night continued onward and upward without any real audible problems.
Seeing Bird’s virtuosity is a very humbling experience. What he does on-stage, much like what Jon Brion does at Largo, makes the crowd feel very welcome; it’s almost as if he and the band are playing for you in their home. Whether it’s the banter – which came quite effortlessly for Bird on this night – or the ability to make what he does on-stage look so easy, one thing is certain: He always captures everyone’s attention. He plays multiple instruments deftly, and to loop those and weave them into song, you can’t help but feel a bit mystified and in awe. At one point, with his already looping guitar slung behind his back, he strummed his violin while whistling, only to put it down, and finish off on the xylophone. It made me think that at one point, before I die, I would love to see the magic that could happen if him and Brion shared a stage for a night.
The Greek, while not sold out, comprised of mostly well-versed Bird fans. In my section alone, you could hear the folks whistling along to “Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left,” and in my row particular, the audible, “She’s got blood in her eyes for you,” during a rousing rendition of “FakePalindromes” came at me from both sides. Whistling and singing aren’t anything new when you go to a show, but seeing Angelenos smiling, and getting misty-eyed because their song was played is true testament to the validity of an artist. After a standing ovation for “Palindromes,” Bird came back on-stage alone, just like the evening began, and with a comment on the night’s weather, he closed the night off with “Weather Systems.” With epic clouds billowing overhead, it was the perfect song to cap a beautiful night.
Photo by Jake G. Netter