Things you learn at a Gezellegheid show: Andrew Bird’s broken his nose five, maybe now six times. Trivia, for those of you who like those things. There’s a context for this, but you almost had to be there, and I’ve also sworn not to make any bird puns over the topic.
Potential medical complications aside, these shows — Bird’s mostly annual holiday-time tradition in Chicago and other major cities — are Bird’s playground, his chance to really dig into music, experiment with new melodies, and figure out what direction he’s taking his music to next. The Gezellegheid shows are where some of the earliest incarnations of songs that wound up comprising Break It Yourself were shown off, and he revisited some of those ideas last night at Fourth Presbyterian Church. “Eyeoneye”, the lead single from the new album, had its roots as an instrumental song called “Oh Baltimore”. It took a while for the much louder, more typically-indie-rock revamped album version to grow on me, as I loved the stripped down instrumental version I’d been hearing. Having the chance to hear it in its original form once more was a huge bit of excitement for me.
We’re continuing to see the deconstruction of Bird’s older songs as he takes them apart and makes something new out of them. He also debuted a few new songs, one which is just a melody with no words yet, and one based on a melody that he was playing with at last year’s MCA shows (they took the place of the Gezellegheid shows in Chicago) and has now gone back and set words to.
While these shows have been traditionally solo affairs in the past, this year, Bird brought some help. He was accompanied by bassist Alan Hampton for much of the show (on upright bass and guitar), and frequent collaborator Nora O’Connor on vocals and guitar for much of the second set.
The first night of Bird’s three night stint at Fourth Presbyterian was exquisite. I remarked after the show that usually the first night is more uneven, like Bird’s still finding his footing. Based on this, he’s already got it down; I can only hope this means the next two nights will take us to even more transcendent places.
- Hole in the Ocean Floor
- Instrumental > Naming of Things lyrics
- Carrion Suite
- Three White Horses (instrumental version)
- Giant of Illinois (the Handsome Family cover)
- Instrumental (Skin Is My riff)
- New Song (untitled, w/ AH)
- Fatal Shore (w/ AH)
- Trimmed and Burning (w/AH)
- Plasticities (w/AH)
- Give It Away (w/ NO, AH)
- Three White Horses (w/ NO, AH)
- Lusitania (w/ NO, AH)
- If I Needed You (Townes Van Zandt cover, w/ NO, AH)
- Something Biblical (w/ NO, AH)
- The Sad Milkman (Handsome Family cover, w/ NO, AH)
- Some Happy Day (Charley Patton cover, w/AH)
- Orpheo (w/ AH)
- Eyeoneye (w/AH)
- New Song (untitled – “Pulaski at Night”) (w/ AH)
- Danse Caribe (w/ AH)
- Oh Sister (Bob Dylan cover, w/ NO, AH)
- Goin’ Home (Charley Patton cover, w/NO, AH)