Concert Review: Andrew Bird; Millennium Park, September 3, 2008

I don’t really have a review of the concert, because it honestly sort of blew my mind. This man is completely 100% amazing. If I could have even a tiny fraction of the musical and lyrical creativity and talent that he has, I could be happy forever. His music isn’t to everyone’s liking, but I was captivated, start to finish. He records music into a loop pedal thing (that’s the technical name, you know), so he can record several different brief parts quickly and play them all back to make this amazingly textured, layered sound. I don’t think his recordings capture just how crazy this is. In a studio, you can do whatever you want, really, so the visual of him circling around stage, going to different microphones to record different things to play back, seeing him swing his guitar over his back and hurriedly pick up the violin, it gives you so much of a deeper picture of, well, the organized chaos that has to exist in Andrew Bird’s mind in order to keep track of all of that.

And the whistling. Everyone who talks about Andrew Bird winds up talking about the whistling. Everyone knows someone who can whistle, but he somehow has made that whistle into just as integral of an instrument as the violin and the guitar. And it’s so freaking eerie, I don’t even know where to start.

One of my favorite parts of the show, though, has to be the spontaneous stage-rushing by hundreds of indie kids (though there was one woman who could have been my grandmother up there with all the kids, doing her arm-waving hipster dance). After over half a concert of sedate sitting by the crowd (which seemed to be mixed between Andrew Bird fans, people who came because it was free, and people who came because they always check out the city’s cultural events and who thus were really, really confused by the whole thing) there was a spontaneous rush to the stage to engage in some hipster flailing and jumping, and let me tell you, as much as I sometimes dislike concert antics like that (I’m slowly turning into a crochety old person), that gave the show so much more energy.

And honestly, he could have just played “A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left”, “Imitosis”, and “Skin Is, My” and I would have been very terribly happy.

From the review of the show (check out the photos):

After the band’s exuberant versions of “Plasticities” and “Fiery Crash,” audience members rocketed to their feet as soon as Bird ripped into the intro to “Fake Palindromes.” Patrons on the lawn poured down into the pavilion, pushing forward in one collective conga line of writhing excitement. In a matter of seconds, the scene went from tame restraint to a crush of dancing bodies, with young girls screaming, “I love you!” The sudden tsunami of activity left the bewildered security staff throwing their hands in the air and exchanging glances that said, “What the hell?! This guy is playing a freakin’ violin!”

And that pretty much sums it up. (Though I would disagree with Spin’s tongue-in-cheek title of ‘babe riot’ — she makes it sound like the crowd was overwhelmingly female, which isn’t the feeling I got from the crowd at all. Besides, if there was really a ‘babe riot’, I swear to god I would take all those hipster girls on, let me tell you what.) If you watched the security guards, they all looked completely bewildered. (Even the one that ran on stage to hustle off a girl who’d jumped up to dance.) It was like their pre-concert briefing had assured them that everything would be sedate and calm. It’s just a dude who whistles and plays the violin, right? RIGHT?! Well, not quite. It was both hilarious and pretty moving, and a great welcome back for one of Chicago’s favorite indie sons.

For a much more comprehensive review than mine — one that actually, you know, talks about the music, check out this blog, from where I’ve stolen the setlist. Also, check out the Sun-Times’ review.

The Giant of Illinois (Handsome Family cover)
Fiery Crash
A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left
Opposite Day
The Master Swarm (new)
A Non-Animal (new)
Dr. Stringz
Fake Palindromes
Skin Is, My
Tables and Chairs
Some of These Days (acapella)
Weather Systems

(I could have sworn that he did Heretics, but apparently I just wanted him to do it and it didn’t actually happen. Though I’ve been listening to Armchair Apocrypha tonight and I noticed that there are a lot of similar musical themes that pop up throughout the record, so I can see how the songs have all blurred together in my head.)

And for some other awesome photos, check out this photoset and this one and this one. When I saw how many people there had awesome, professional cameras, I decided not to even bother with my phone camera.