Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Andrew Bird @Riverside Church, Dec. 10th

Andrew Bird is one hell of a talented dude.  I saw him perform earlier this year at a tiny venue for which he stuck mostly to new material, which left me craving more.  Sapient assured me seeing him this time around for his solo Gezelligheid show would be wonderful, and indeed it was. I got in line an hour before doors and managed to sit in the second row, center aisle, making the cavernous Riverside Church seem looming and intimate at the same time.

(More pics, including a setlist, after the jump.)

For me, the inexperienced Andrew Bird fan, the show was as close to wonderful as it could get, quite possibly my favorite show of the year.  Though varying a bit from the setlist (which I posted below, so don't scroll all the way down if you don't want to spoil your future Gezelligheid experience, though I'm pretty sure he mixes it up), Bird did the first set mostly solo, bringing out bassist Alan Hampton to join him for the end of the first hour and the rest of the show.  Bird had a slight cough in between songs, but sounded good.  I thought there would be a bit more storytelling, but he only spoke a few halting sentences in between songs.  

No matter, we were there for the music, and boy, did he deliver.  He played a great combination of familiar tunes from his catalog, interesting covers (I liked the Townes Van Zandt one of "If I Needed You"), ones with temporary titles (including a complex one called "Polaski [sic] Dreams"), and even a few songs with no lyrics that were works in progress.  For the middle part of his show, he had the lovely Tift Merrit join him and Hampton for some great harmonies.  Unfortunately, the show started a bit later than anticipated, so it looks like some good ending encores were omitted from the intended setlist, but I did not walk away disappointed by the 2-1/4 hours of delicious music.

As an aside, thanks to the wonders of the internets, I realized that one of my TTFM friends, DJ Jasmine, was also in attendance, so we arranged to meet each other during intermission for the first time in person (finally).  Kind of silly, but also goes to show what a fun, shared experience music can be with my fellow music geeks.

I would be remiss if I made no mention of the setting.  Riverside Church, as you can see from the pics below, served as an ornate, impressive backdrop making it a major player in the evening's performance.  The acoustics were nearly perfect, save for a slight buzzing that emanated from one of the Victrola style speakers (32 in all) at times, especially since Bird's music was performed without percussion or heavy, distorted bass lines.  It was also fascinating watching the whirring center speakers as they spun and warped the sound.  Did it feel like a church service? The agnostic in me says no, but I definitely felt a sense of solemnity and magic as I peered upwards into the darkness near the ceiling.

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