Story by Matt RichterTicket holders to the sold out show walk under a dark awning to the first set of glass doors, where a stale Camel Light haze from impatient smokers waiting for Bird to take stage hits them just as a Miramar staffer snags their tickets. Inside the shallow lobby, pink wrist-banded fans and Bird rookies, ranging from early 20s to 40 somethings, half listen to the evening's opener.
Photos by Matt Schwenke
Being my second Bird performance, I anticipated a quiet evening. His past 2005 visit to Brew City at the East Side's Gil's Cafe revealed a refined act; a delicate, hushed voice and oddly-perfect whistle complimented a haunting violin which he pulled and prodded to produce a variety of sounds. Instead, a more vocal Bird took stage at the Miramar, and, often backed by a heavy beat from drummer Kevin O'Donnell, Andrew's only occasional on-stage company, he manifested a larger sound for a larger audience still wrapped in his signature style. I was reminded of a pleasing constant with this rising singer/songwriter, something critics and fans already knew: no two Bird shows are the same.
Chicago native Andrew Bird has turned out his unique Arcade Fire meets Jeff Buckley folk world rock sound for nearly ten years, with equally as many albums. His latest, 2005's The Mysterious Production of Eggs, speaks to a slightly louder Bird than past releases. Producing almost every sound on the record, save guest appearances by O'Donnell on drums and Nora O'Connor, vocals, on a few tracks, Bird again pushes his creativity, multi-instrumental abilities and talent for songwriting beyond his comfort zone and into new territory. His shows mirror his studio work; both are in constant motion.
Walking out to the low stage, not one foot above a seated throng of college students, Andrew sheds a long red scarf and lifts a violin to this shoulder. He begins pulling the bow, then alternately plucking the strings, looping and layering to manifest a complex web of sounds that flirt with different beats. His lanky frame sways and bobs; he kisses the mic, whispering then yelling intimate lyrics in a Tom York / Buckley voice that can only be described as his own. In "Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left," Bird playfully jerks his head, mimicking his own intelligent lyrics. Between songs, from past albums and from his latest work, he meekly jokes with the audience, drawing them on stage with him. O'Donnell's solid drum and bass beat, backing Bird's delicate violin and passionate vocals, leave the audience shaken. Subdued solos consisting of melancholy violin and poignant whistle leave the audience still.
Breaking trail with a violin in chin, electric guitar slung over his shoulder and unquestionably unique songwriting talent, Bird left his followers addicted and newcomers to his odd sound wanting more. And with his fame on the cusp of exploding, more is sure to come.
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