Funny story: leading up to this show I was very excited to be finally seeing Andrew Bird live for the first time. I had been a fan since shortly after Armchair Apocrypha came out, but had somehow never seen him perform. Well, that's what I thought up until about two songs in, when I realised I had seen him before. It was at the Stanley Park Singing Exhibition, a two-day mini-festival that The New Pornographers put on at Malkin Bowl in 2008.
Faulty memory aside, I was still excited to see him perform for the first time in a long time, as he toured his latest album Are You Serious stopping at Vancouver's beautiful Orpheum Theatre, the perfect venue for the indie-folk-rocker.
Taking the stage in front of their own lighting rig, Andrew Bird and his band opened with an instrumental which, if the internet is correct, was a cover of Alice Coltrane's "Journey in Satchidananda" before going into "Capsized" off the new album. Andrew and his band opened up on the song, setting the mood for the next hour an a half. While Bird was backed by a full band, but still made use of his looping pedals as he added layer upon layer to songs. He jumped between violin and guitar, sometimes even mid-song, looping violin parts while the guitar was strapped to his back. And let me tell you, can he ever whistle.
With an effortless charm between songs, and a captivating presence while playing, Bird's set stretching throughout his career; going back to Andrew Bird & the Mysterious Production of Eggs with "A Nervous Tic Motion Of The Head To The Left", and of course a strong dose of the new album with songs like the heart-melting "Left Hand Kisses", which he performed both rolls of the Fiona Apple duet. Other highlights included the sweeping "Are You Serious?" which had an added intensity live, the melancholic "Lusitania", and clear crowd favourite "Plasticities".
And I just want to mention the lighting quickly, which was incredibly. Occasionally Bird was lit from the floor in front of him so his giant shadow danced on the back of the stage, but for the most part their lighting rig behind them illuminated on the band, both with traditional spotlights on them, and an LED frame, either shifting with the drums, or twinkling as Bird plucked his violin. I love it when the lighting adds to the show, and makes it even more engaging to behold.
After a love letter to Chicago with "Pulaski at Night", the band closed out the main set with "Armchairs", but the final notes held and techies fixed some things on stage, so it was more obvious than usual they'd be back. First, Bird crowded around the microphone with two of his bandmates for an acoustic cover of Neil Young's "Harvest", and stayed as the energy swelled to a climax for what would have been a perfect closer, "Give It Away".
But then in what seemed like a "true encore moment", Bird stayed out alone while the band left, and took centre stage one last time. He introduced the final song as one he hadn't played in a long time, but that it just felt right in this setting before going into "Weather Stations" from the '03 album of the same name. His layered violins and haunting whistle filled the theatre as the rapt crowd
It was a beautiful show, hearing Bird's majestic songs in a venue like the Orpheum, and I was really glad to see him for the first time... again.
Journey in Satchidananda [Alice Coltrane cover]
A Nervous Tic Motion Of The Head To The Left
Are you serious?
Truth Lies Low
Left Handed Kisses
Three White Horses
Giant of Illinois
Valleys Of The Young
Pulaski at Night
Harvest [Neil Young cover]
Give It Away