Andrew Bird, Fourth Presbyterian Church; December 21, 2012

Andrew Bird

Andrew Bird, Hideout Block Party, September 24, 2011

Well, the final night of this year’s round of Gezellegheid concerts is upon us.  This show happened to fall upon the day of that alleged end of the world business, which was acknowledged by Bird in his typical sly way at the end of the set, when he treated the audience to a more stripped down version of “Tables  & Chairs”, the most cheerful song about the apocalypse that there ever was.

This night had a very similar setlist as the prior nights, but again, some of the songs are still being tinkered with. The new song, with the repeated line of “Pulaski at night”, is still a work in progress — he’s got all the parts but is still trying to put them in order.  It’s a very powerful song which seems to resonate with the crowd.  I remember the melody getting stuck in my head after hearing him perform it at last year’s MCA shows, and it still holds true — days later I’ve still got it stuck in my head.

These shows are some of Bird’s favorites to perform, and he clearly loves the chance to do them at home.  He mentioned that while he does the shows in other cities, the ones in Chicago work the best.  It’s the perfect environment for a show — and as one of those curmudgeonly people who is becoming less and less able to tolerate people chit-chatting through shows, I appreciate the hushed, somewhat solemn nature, as it keeps people from talking the whole time.

The freedom of these shows is what I really appreciate.  After the show, Mel and I had a conversation about Bird and his physical performance, and while that’s her story to tell, not mine, I can say that these concerts have seen Bird be more physically animated than he has in a while now.  Years and years of jumping up and down on stage takes a toll on the body, something that Bird’s alluded to a handful of times, so his physical performance has been a bit more low-key lately.  He makes up for it in smaller movements — the curling of fingers, grasping for something — and with his voice.  His voice has always been a fine instrument, especially over the past six or so years as he’s really grown into the style of music that suits him best. (Listen, I love Thrills and it is in fact one of my favorites but there are songs on there that are so clearly a very young man literally trying to find his voice; listen to his discography in order and you can hear him mature.)  But in these “old timey” sections, where everything is so exposed, there’s a new boldness, a hint of an edge that is exciting to me.  Bird’s voice has always excelled at conveying fragility, but hearing the strength that he brings to tracks like “Something Biblical”, “Railroad Bill”, and “Three White Horses” has me excited for what the next steps in his musical career will bring.

Setlist

Set One

  1. Instrumental
  2. Hole in the Ocean Floor
  3. Ethiobirds / Naming of Things
  4. Carrion Suite
  5. Instrumental (Skin Is My)
  6. Meet Me Here at Dawn (Cass McCombs cover)
  7. New song (Untitled – “A minor”)
  8. Trimmed & Burning
  9. Plasticities

Set Two

  1. MX Missiles
  2. Give It Away
  3. Lusitania
  4. Some Happy Day
  5. Three White Horses
  6. Something Biblical
  7. If I Needed You
  8. The Sad Milkman
  9. Orpheo
  10. Eyeoneye
  11. New song (untitled – “Pulaski at night”)
  12. Tables and Chairs

Encore

  1. Oh Sister
  2. Goin’ Home