This show marks the 6th (or 7th? I'm losing count) time I've seen Andrew Bird, with each show becoming successively grander than the last. I first caught him solo at the Empty Bottle after Weather Systems was released several years ago, marking my first introduction to the Bird. My love for him was sealed when he opened for the Magnetic Fields at the Old Town School of Folk Music in 2004, a better venue to showcase his style and personality since everyone is seated and all eyes are on the stage. I saw him solo for the last time at a show in Madison, WI during summer 05 before he started bringing drummer Martin Dosh around. Now Andrew travels with a full band and some crazy spinning horn speakers, which certainly fills out his sound and makes for a bigger stage show, but loses a little of Andrew's personality along the way.
Fans who'd never seen him alone before got a special treat, as Andrew came out on stage solo to perform one of his live staples, "Why'd You Do That" (not sure if that's the official title, but it's my title). No song better encapsulates Bird's wit and quirkiness, and his trademark looping is at the front and center. This is the sort of performance that makes you never want to listen to Bird on album again, because it just can't live up to him in person.
Soon after the band joined him, running through tracks from across his catalog, including "Imitosis", "Fiery Crash", "Weather Systems", and my personal favorite of the night, "Fake Palindromes", a song that really does sound better with a full band behind it. Another great thing about an Andrew Bird show is hearing him reinvent the same songs, over and over again; he never plays a song the same way twice. This was made especially clear with a completely rearranged version of "Lull", which was virtually unrecognizable to me until the chorus kicked in. We were also treated to a couple of new songs from his forthcoming album, the recording of which is currently being chronicled on the New York Times Measure for Measure blog, which, frankly, sounded fantastic.
Seeing Andrew Bird play will never get old (especially when it's at a Chicago gem like the Pritzker Pavillion), even as he has grown from the Empty Bottle to the Riviera Theatre. Still, I'm hoping that he continues to mix some solo performances in with his full-band shows, because that's truly where the magic of a Bird performance lies.
See pics from the night courtesy of Radio Free Chicago here.