Andrew Bird has really risen to new heights from relative obscurity 3-4 years ago. Although he's been in the business for over a decade, it was surrounding the release of 2005's Mysterious Production of Eggs that Bird began to amass a widespread legion of fans, which is no small feat for an emerging pop star who uses the violin as his primary instrument. Aside from the violin, Bird predominantly features the glockenspiel, an absolutely unparalleled whistling ability, gramophone horns, guitar, and a xylophone. It's a very atypical set-up, but just the right type of excessive departure from the mainstream that make indie hipsters swoon in ecstasy. Although he's backed by a three piece band consisting of drums, bass and guitar, the trio essentially serves as a subtle supplement to the massive walls of sound created by Bird looping several instruments (including his voice and his whistle) over one another.
In my opinion, Bird is far better live than on his records. Don't get me wrong, I love many of his albums, especially 2007's Armchair Apocrypha, but the already propulsive tunes take on a new life in a live setting, as you watch him build wild, sweeping orchestrations from the ground up, most of which merely begin with a simple pluck of the guitar or the violin. It's almost a little exhausting watching him, and subsequently imagining his songwriting process, which, for a man of his talents, has to be pretty excruciating at times. There is just so much going on, so much concentration, so many arrangements to keep track of, and above all, so much passion for his craft. If you're curious about Andrew Bird, and want a window into his songwriting process, he often contributes to the Measure for Measure blog, an online journal hosted by the New York Times and collectively inspired by an elite group of working musicians including Roseanne Cash and Susanne Vega.
It also didn't hurt my enjoyment of the show that we watched the performance from the 9:30 club's luxurious V.I.P. area :)
I'll post photos of Bird's performance tomorrow, but in the meantime, take a listen to last night's performance via NPR webcast. Let me know if my description of Bird's sound holds any water.