Friday, February 20, 2009

andrew bird and loney dear @ the orpheum

I'm sure there's such thing as too much good music. Really, I'm sure that at some point the brain overloads -- causing the listener to crave the sweet, sweet pre-fab pop of top 40 or to take to huddling in elevators allowing the unobtrusive soundtrack to soothe his or her over-stimulated ears. After spending Thursday night at the Orpheum, the combined forces of Loney Dear and Andrew Bird brought me close to that precarious edge. But seeing as how I rolled out of bed the next day wanting nothing more than to throw myself ears first into Loney Dear's tour-only albums (reissued copies of his first and second records), I think we can safely assume the worst is behind us. But it was a close call.

Opening the evening was Loney Dear. Confession from your Would-Be Hipster: I was there for him. I know, I know, given my track record of "Scandinavian Appreciation" (trademark pending), this is indeed a shocking moment for us all. And (flame me if you must), I do believe in many ways the unassuming Swede emotionally stole the show. Beginning of the set: an ambivalent half-filled theater, punctuated by random bursts of idle chatter and cell phone lights gyrating to frantic texting. Slowly but surely, Loney Dear's melancholic rock and falsetto took hold. One could almost plot the turning of the tides. The gradual shift of attention to the stage, the increasingly frequent glance up to take note of endlessly catchy "I Am John," the unprecedented willingness of the crowd to sing back up vocals for an opener. By the time Loney Dear mastermind Emil Svanängen stepped away from the mic to sing the chorus of "I Love You," the transformation was complete -- unaided, his voice carried to the end of the theater where, if you were listening carefully you could hear a pin drop. By the end of the set the theater was nearly full with two-thirds of the audience on their feet. A standing ovation? Not bad for the new kid in town.

Then there was Andrew Bird. Which given his (rightfully) self-assured swagger is really the only introduction he needs. To loud cheers he kicked off his shoes, pursed his lips, and settled down to business. Watching Andrew Bird play is a thing of beauty. Switching between his trademark violin and guitar, band members and whirling gramophone, there's simply a lot of chaos around him. And yet, not only does he recreate and embellish every note -- he manages to do so in a matter that suggests the relaxed posture of a men's attire model.

Of course, you can't review Andrew Bird without discussing his whistling. Amidst all the the aforementioned chaos he whistled a bird. (Yeah I know, cheesy, but sometimes it's important to call a spade a spade, or rather a bird a bird.) I have fond memories of my childhood, where my mother tried and tried again to teach me the finer points of whistling. Thanks to her, today -- if the wind is blowing just right, the stars are aligned and my lips aren't chapped -- I can produce the ghost of a whistle. Thanks mom! Combine this terrible handicap with my well-documented fascination with live sampling and well, Mr. Bird, I tip my metaphorical and physical hats to you. Chirp away.

One of my big concerns was that -- despite several attempts, I just haven't connected with Andrew Bird's new material. Funny then, that one of my highlights of the evening was his rather rocking rendition of "Anonanimal." A new song, and a new favorite. This revelation was surpassed only by set closer "Tables and Chairs." How can you not love a man who closes his show with a carefree mention of snacks at the apocalypse? Yeah, that's right, you can't.

(photo Andrew Bird: Cameron Witting)

mp3: "Plasticities (live)" by Andrew Bird
mp3: "I Am John (live)" by Loney Dear
mp3: "Airport Surroundings" by Loney Dear

1 comment:

impossible city said...

well described

hey man i was there too...mot a hipster either but did like the show
here's my take