Concert: Andrew Bird

Photo courtesy of
‘Andrew Bird at Music Hall of Williamsburg (January 26th, 2009)’
courtesy of ‘Amanda M Hatfield’

I was expecting to get blown away when I went to see Andrew Bird at the 9:30 Club last Tuesday. I really was. You might think that those were some pretty high expectations, especially since I had never seen him live, but sometimes…you just feel it.

His music is complex and beautiful, with plucked violin and his expert whistling (yes, whistling) on top of often jaunty piano or guitar chords. I love his CDs, and often find that they are the perfect backdrop for everything from Metro rides to game nights.

Unfortunately, this did not translate into an amazing concert experience. Andrew Bird came out by himself first, dressed in his signature suit with skinny tie, and leapt right into his first song. He relies heavily on loop pedals, which involved him making certain noises (whistles, violin, and singing) and pressing the pedal so he could record on top of what he had already done. Most of the time, this is pretty cool and results in a lot more complex sound than one person can make, but frankly, I thought the first song was kind of a mess.

It did get better from there once the rest of his band joined him for the third song, but overall, I was disappointed in the live renditions of the songs I knew and loved. Often the pace changed–lovely slow songs were sped up, and upbeat happy songs seemed generic and dull. My favorite song off his new album, “Not a Robot, but a Ghost,” was almost unrecognizable in the last half, possibly due to the substitution of guitar for the piano line. My friend also maintains that it was the only time that he used pre-recorded sounds in the concert, though I’m not 100% sure about that.

Photo courtesy of
‘Ticket to Andrew Bird’
courtesy of ‘dcjasmine’

The one exception was “Plasticities,” which I enjoyed every second of. That’s when the energy really amped up and it started to feel like I thought the whole concert would. I think the rest of the crowd really felt the shift, too, and the girl in front of me even screamed, “This is what we came here for!” It was what I came for, too–just a shame that it didn’t last the whole time.

Andrew Bird himself is kind of a nut, taking his shoes off halfway through the first song and starting a song only to get distracted by a crinkling noise on the balcony above him and having to stop to address it. He didn’t do much moving around or dancing onstage, though, and his bandmates might as well have been painted on a backdrop for all they added to the stage presence.

Oh, Andrew Bird. I will still always love his CDs, but sometimes you really shouldn’t mess with a good thing. You don’t have to take my word for it, though–NPR was actually at the 9:30 Club  streaming the concert, and the whole thing is now available online.

Jasmine is a Spin magazine contributor who is completely obsessed with music and all things new and different. She’s lived in the DC area since 2006, and still has plenty to discover about this great area! Find out why she loves DC.

2 thoughts on “Concert: Andrew Bird

  1. Andrew Bird is known for recreating his songs every night (read his NY time blog).

    The distraction was due to the bloke in front of me, in the first row, who kept taking out his collection of cameras (including a broken one) to take photos every five minutes.

  2. This is the craziest review that I have ever read. I honestly have never read a review of someone who didn’t get blown away by his live show. I’ve seen Andrew three times and each time was a uniquely beautiful experience.
    Personally, I would be bored if I went to the concert and all that it was was an exact recreation of the album. I could have saved the money and stayed home with the record.
    I listened to the live stream of this concert, and I was soooo jealous that I couldn’t be there. It’s a shame that you couldn’t recognize the complete genius behind the performance.