Concert Review: Andrew Bird, Arvada Center, 8/9/11

There is something pretty magical about Colorado in the summer. That goes double for concerts in the quasi-outdoors.

Arvada is a suburb to the northwest of Denver, and it’s a place where fields with horses are interspersed with strip malls. Crickets were audible during the performance — something Andrew Bird commented on tonight. “It sounds like home,” he said.

Indeed. I’ve spent the last several days packing up my apartment — come Saturday, I’m moving roughly a thousand miles away from Denver — but I blocked out time for this concert, and also his show up at the Colorado Chautauqua tomorrow night in Boulder. Like I did with the DC gezelligheid shows last year, I’m planning on reserving a lot of my commentary for after the Boulder show.

We’re still looking at a lot of the same new material, but refined yet again. I’m noticing much more in the way of harmonic work underlying both the newer and the older material — there are more lines woven into “You Woke Me Up” in the setup prior to the entry of the glockenspiel, for example, and more lines woven into “The Lazy Projector” and “Nyatiti”. His endings, overall, are more minimal, often relying on a single faded note than closing on a played chord as he’s been doing for the last little while.

But what I really saw tonight is confidence I haven’t seen since 2008. He’s projecting a calm mastery of his material, and really digging into it, in ways that have been missing in the last several performances I’ve caught. He was relaxed, casual, in control. “Tables and Chairs” was an audience request; he asked us to sing along to fill in the blanks he thought his new arrangement left. Folks cheered at we’re going to meet some day in the crumbled financial institutions of this land, so he dug in and made it even better. The subject matter of the newer material also has an oddly contemporary tenor, considering how long he’s been working on it. It’s more present, more concerned with contemporary issues, in the same ways as Armchair Apocrypha. The presentness of the lyrics carried over into Bird’s presence on stage, and that intensity made the group of us out in the amphitheater into a full-on gathering.

The highlights for me were easily “Tables and Chairs”, “Danse Caribbe”, and his duet of “Spare-Ohs” with Haley Bonar — though his revamped solo arrangement of “Fitz and the Dizzyspells” deserves a special mention. It’s maybe the best example I have of the differences I see in him now as compared to the gezelligheid shows and his Largo show. He didn’t attack the song, because he didn’t have to. His performance was more joyful than anything I’ve seen him do in literally years.

And it went well. All our Colorado friends were there: Bird, Bonar, the crickets, even Scramble Campbell, painting the show. (You can see the painting to the right.) It was a break from everything. And I’m looking forward to seeing what, if anything, changes in Boulder tomorrow night. Back to packing boxes for now.

(But I’ll leave you with the burning question my friend and I had all night: where is the sock monkey?)

Set List:

You Woke Me Up
Hole In The Ocean Floor
A Nervous Tic Motion Of The Head To The Left
The Lazy Projector
Carrion Suite
Desperation Breeds
Effigy (with Haley Bonar)
Give It Away
Fitz and the Dizzyspells
Spare-Ohs (with Haley Bonar)
Tables and Chairs

Goin’ Home (Charley Patton cover, with Haley Bonar, without PA)
Danse Caribbe

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