February 3, 2009

Andrew Bird @ Carnegie Hall (con'd)

Last Wednesday, I closed the book on the 3rd of three projects that had been dominating my life since before the New Year. Between unprecedented levels of sleep deprivation and consecutive weekends of work, I was due for a break. MB was in pretty rough shape too; she had just come off an intense class that met four nights a week for four hours a night. Needless to say, we really needed a night to relax.

We'd booked the Andrew Bird show sometime back in the fall, almost immediately after we caught him at the Hiro Ballroom. That show was his first public appearance after he completed work on his latest album, Noble Beast (which, according to Mr. Bird, should be intoned in the voice of David Attenborough). It was neat to see Mr. Bird and his new band in an intimate setting trying out the new material for the first time. Sadly, he wrapped up the show a little early because he had to run over to the Music Hall of Williamsburg for a DNC fundraiser - it was the night of the 2nd presidential debate. All in all, it was a great show but nothing like what we caught at Carnegie Hall.

Mr. Bird opening the show by his lonesome

After a quick drink at a nearby pub, we entered the fabled venue. The last we were there, we watched Trey Anastasio play songs off his orchestral album, Seis de Mayo, with the Vermont Youth Orchestra. This time around, instead of sitting 10 or so rows from the very back of the room, we had wonderful seats just left-of-center in a box in the 2nd tier. Before we went into our own box, we watched couple after couple walk into a box, walk back out, approach a staff member and ask, "Is this really the right seats?" Not only were the box seats great, but we were in the front row, right on the banister.

Before Andrew came out, his "opening" band Dosh took the stage. Dosh consists of everyone in Mr. Bird's current band, sans Mr. Bird. Martin Dosh started the evening on his own. Surrounded by a drumset, a trio of synths and keyboards, and an Akai Headrush sampler pedal, he got things going with Simple X. After a pair of solos, he was joined by bassist and clarinetist, Michael Lewis. A few songs later, Jeremy Ylvisaker added his guitar to the mix. All of the Dosh songs were instrumental, a very appropriate considering the venue.

After a short intermission, Mr. Bird took the stage by himself, playing three looped instrumentals featuring his usual mix of violin, guitar, whistling and oohs & ahhhs. After his second song, he thanked the audience for letting him ramble a bit. "Alright, this is gonna be fun. Thanks for indulging me; I just had to play like that in this room." By the time he invited his band onto the stage, the excitement in the room was palpable.

Most of the set was dominated by songs from Noble Beast with a smattering of old favorites like Imitosis and Tables and Chairs. Overall, the show was very similar to what we'd seen at Hiro back in October but it was clear they'd spent a significant amount of time mastering the songs. That being said, Andrew felt the initial loops for Fitz and the Dizzyspells weren't up to par so he stopped the band and took another stab at it. After 3 or 4 half attempts, he joked, "It's a slippery slope." Personally, I thought this minor hiccup added to the performance, demonstrating just how real (re. not pre-produced) all of the sounds were.

By the end of the evening, the audience was roaring after each song. After closing the set with Tables and Chairs, the entire crowd immediately rose to their feet, encouraging Mr. Bird back for not one but two encores; they would have had a third if the house lights hadn't come up.

After snapping a shot of Mr. Bird on my iPhone during his first number, I remembered I have a Recorder app. You can download nearly the entire setlist (minus that first tune) here: http://drop.io/abirdcarnegie. (quick side note - drop.io is a great site for hosting files of any type or variety). The quality of the recordings aren't stellar but the room was friendly, especially on the quieter tunes, and I think it's worth the listen. Some of my favorite tunes are the ones I don't know the names of - #1 and #8. Enjoy and let me know what you think.

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