By: Michaella Crane
The background is set up simply- stacked speakers shorten the stage that’s engulfed in smoke. I’m standing in the corner of the front row. A piece of tape obviously indicates where I am not suppose to cross unless I want a security guard to stop me. So I am, of course, strategically on top of it, wanting to be as close to the stage as possible.
Andrew Bird walks out nonchalantly and the crowd, a mixture of people of all ages, fills New Haven’s College Street Music Hall with applause and hollers. Andrew picks up his violin and is accompanied by his guitarist and bassist in a short, dissonant instrumental piece, reminiscent of his earlier album I Want To See Pulaski At Night.
He continues to play a slew of songs off his new album, Are You Serious, which he describes as more relatable and radio-friendly than the poetic, orchestral pieces he is known for. He often switches between strumming the violin with his fingers and playing it with the bow, and I am overcome by his ability to create both the sophisticated sounds normally associated with a violin as well as electric guitar-sounding riffs.
His equipment stops working at one point during the show, and he later lets the audience know they had “blown a tube.” I’m not sure why, but I love to see how artists react when things like this go wrong at live shows. I think it’s because it reveals what kind of performer they really are. He calls over someone from his tech team and says to the audience, “Well, how about we do a guitar song?” Strictly a professional, he knows how to keep the show going.
What is perhaps most impressive, almost more than his consistently impeccable vocals and violin skills, is his whistling. He incorporates whistling into most of his songs and hits every note with great precision and vibrato. During a rare moment of silence one audience member shouted, “The way you whistle makes me feel good inside!” Andrew chuckled while the audience completely lost it and replied sincerely, “Thanks for saying that!”
The performance ended with a rendition of his most well-known song, “Pulaski at Night”, which really showed off his talent of composing gorgeous, tear-evoking violin lines, as well as his impressive vocal range.
It’s hard to stick Andrew Bird’s music into a genre- it’s indie, but it’s also folk, with elements of jazz, and even has classical influences with his violin playing. His musical abilities were matched by his talent as a performer; decked out in a sparkling black suit coat he danced all night, thrashed his head to the beat, and, when he got really into it, he would close his eyes. I could just imagine him picturing what inspired him to write those lyrics as he sang them. If you ever have a chance to see him, do not let it pass!