Andrew Bird purveys a new virtuosity

Corey Lehnert

Andrew Bird performed in Milwaukee Feb. 2 (courtesy of Cameron Wittig)

Andrew Bird, the classically trained violinist turned indie rock star, kicked off a tour Feb. 2 at Milwaukee’s Miramar Theatre with a sold-out show that he unabashedly described mid-set as “yet another perfect performance.”
Bird has drawn an impressive following
with his blend of wry, oft-surrealist lyrics and multi-instrumental compositions.
On his albums he layers electric and acoustic guitar, violin, glockenspiel, drums, whistling, keyboards and vocals to lace together profound blankets of sound. On stage he brings a bottled-up talent waiting to burst into the air when he releases compelling reinterpretations of audience favorites like “MX Missiles” and “My Skin Is.”
Bird let the Thursday-night crowd get warmed up with a short set by Martin Dosh, a drummer and multi-instrumentalist
who combined drums, a Rhodes piano, effects pedals, and a sampler to create a wonderfully spontaneous deep-sea sound. Dosh’s solo set, lasting only two songs, was so pleasantly enveloping that, by the time Bird came onstage to merge with Dosh’s instrumental “Misha,” one almost wanted to ask him to wait a couple minutes.
Playing to a sea of beards and black glasses, Bird’s set was all the more entrancing. Starting off with his rendition of Maurice Ravel’s String Quartet in F major, Bird’s training as a classical violinist became apparent. Moreover, his mastery of the sampling pedals made it easy for him to place the sounds of four violinists onstage in a few short moments.
After several minutes one could tell the tapestry of sound Bird had weaved had gained another thread, and he soon launched into the opening motions of “MX Missiles”: “Those that will judge / will say you’re aloof / but you know that the truth is a seed,” Bird sputtered, in a drastic yet welcome change to his usually delicate delivery. He then plucked out a few notes that progressed into a surf guitar solo, as if to show how far he could stray from the song’s typical delivery while remaining true to his fans.
Bird followed up with “Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left,” giving a demonstration of the “nervous tic” while rapidly shifting the song’s style from that of an ’80s power ballad to a flamenco jam session.
The rest of Bird’s set consisted of crowd favorites from his albums “Andrew Bird and the Mysterious Production of Eggs” and “Weather Systems,” as well as one cover and a few songs to be released over the next few months.
Upon coming back for an encore, Bird gave an impressive performance of “Tables & Chairs,” whispering, “Don’t worry about the atmosphere” to the transfixed crowd before ending the set. Having emerged from the beautiful yet surreal realm of music that Bird had left in his wake, one almost wanted to comply with his nonexistent
logic. Although Bird claimed he had not practiced his set in several weeks, the crowd felt no need to challenge his statement
that the first show of Bird’s February tour had indeed gone perfectly.

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