Andrew Bird creates a cozy night at Converse Hall

A review of Andrew Bird at Tremont Temple’s Converse Hall on December 10, 2010

, Contributing Writer

Andrew Bird’s sold out performance in Boston on Friday took place in the most unlikely of venues. Tremont Temple’s Converse Hall, an old church with high carved ceilings, stained glass windows and walls that were adorned with the appropriate Christmas decorations, provided the setting that lent a relaxing and “cozy” evening, as Bird put it.

The opener, Marissa Nadler began the evening with ethereal vocals soaring over finger-picked guitar that set the tone for the evening; only three people took to the stage the whole night and what semblance of tempo there was never surpassed mid-tempo, but the music was always engaging and the atmosphere of the evening was in-and-of-itself enough.

Andrew Bird took the stage with just himself and his trusty violin. Using a loop pedal to capture little motifs and riffs, he quickly commenced layering multiple parts until he had a swirling mixture of bowed, pizzicato and strummed parts, a one man symphony. The stage setup was well thought out, as large, horn shaped PAs and dim lighting that cast an eerie, moon-like glow on the walls and ceiling, providing a great backdrop for Bird’s lush, often somber songs.

He spent much of the evening improvising, something he mentioned as part of the point of the show and the tour; it was intended to be less of a “song based” performance. Bird did play songs, including a humorous rendition of an old song, “Why?” that included Bird miming the song’s emotions, and involving the audience as one of the characters, “why’d I have to go and do what? I’m just sitting here.”

Bird proved to be quite an adept performer, as well as an excellent musician. His frills, riffs and improvisation on the violin showed a versatility, skill and inventiveness that would get a nod from even the best of players, but he never played with playing’s sake. He kept even the most improvisational of moments had structure, and Bird’s vocals kept everything glued together.

The evening was loose and Bird often started over early in songs in order to capture better loops. He tried a few experimental loop effects, and one in particular, a gramophone-like PA, rotating very quickly, created a distorted, whirring sound that Bird utilized at the climax of a few songs. He also tried to recreate something he called the “Barn Tapes”, loops that he had originally intended to create a keyboard where each note was a specific loop or sample. For the most part, however, Bird weaved the more traditional song structures of his music in with these experimental leanings and the results rarely disappointed.

Bird also introduced a fair amount of new material, including “Breeding Disaster”, a song that will likely by the first single to his next album. He described the idea for a music video as a giant field filled with his horn PAs painted like flowers and Zach Galifianakis as the bee. This sense of humor was evident all night in his stage banter and his approach to each song. Each of these elements, musical, comedy and setting, did indeed make for quite a cozy night for both Bird and the audience.

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