Andrew Bird Concert Review
Andrew Bird is an indie rock/folk musician from Chicago. He’s also a champion whistler. I have just a cursory knowledge of his music, but my girlfriend really likes him so I thought an Andrew Bird concert would make a good birthday present. I was only mostly correct.
The show was at the Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. I’d been there once before to see Puscifer, but it was her first time. As I mentioned in my previous review, the Ace Theater is very unassuming on the outside, but inside it’s gorgeous. I didn’t know this, but the Ace Hotel is/was home to the famous neon “Jesus Saves” sign. This time, we arrived a bit early to grab some drinks at the bar/coffee shop next door. The ground level was full, so we went up to the rooftop bar called “Upstairs.” A patron asked the bartender if she could bring her dog. Now, I like dogs a lot, but do you have to bring him literally everywhere? A bar, full of drunks, seems like a bad environment for a pet.
We took our seats after a quick tour of the venue and shortly after the opening act started playing.
I had never heard of John Grant before, but apparently he’s a rising star in the folk/indie scene. He’s been on the Comedy Bang Bang podcast, which you can listen to by clicking here.
As I mentioned, we entered the theater shortly after he started playing. I was very surprised at his physical appearance as it didn’t really fit the music. He looked like a heavy metal guy. Maybe he was, in an earlier time. Just remember that looks can be deceiving!
His music was basically depressing piano music. He was great at pumping up the crowd, his melodies were beautiful, and he was a skilled player. He’s got a deep voice, too, which you don’t hear very often these days. My only gripe with him was that I HATED his lyrics. I don’t have a problem with downer music, but his lyrics were cringeworthy. Some of his delivery rhythms seemed forced, and it seemed to me that he was writing the most depressing things imaginable just for the sake of it. It didn’t seem genuine to me. The audience laughed at a few lines, too. (More on the audience, below.) I’m sure a lot of listeners will tell me why I’m wrong. The music is good, I just didn’t care for the words. He’s a talented performer, but I couldn’t get past the cheesy, dark-for-the-sake-of-dark lyrics.
I’ve embedded a live video below so you can check him out for yourself. You’ll know right away if he’s your cup of tea or not.
Setlist: Sigourney Weaver | Marz | Where Dreams Go to Die | Grey Tickles, Black Pressure | Glacier | GMF | Queen of Denmark
Sound: ★★★★ out of 5
Energy: ★★★ out of 5
Live Performance: ★★★½ out of 5
Overall: ★★★½ out of 5
Andrew Bird came out first with his violin, his primary instrument. (He also plays the guitar and the glockenspiel, and he’s terrific on all three.) At times, he had a back up band of three others, and other times he played loops to fill in the music. Bird is fantastic. The violin is haunting, and his voice very emotional. I thought the whistling might turn me off, but I found myself humming along in my head to those bits. I wasn’t necessarily a fan of his before the show, but he definitely won me over.
The highlight of the night had to be the song Left Handed Kisses. (I’ve embedded the video below; he plays guitar on this one.) The album version is a duet with Fiona Apple, and Bird surprised us by bringing her out to sing along with him. She’d do so once more during the encore. I think she may have gotten a bigger response than Bird, which I didn’t think was warranted. Bird was the star of the show. It was over too quickly. As this was my first real taste of Andrew Bird’s music, I wanted more. That’s a great compliment and tribute to his music, and to his performance. If you get a chance to see him, please do so!
Andrew Bird Setlist: Journey in Satchidananda (Alice Coltrane cover) | Capsized | A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left | Tenuousness | Lusitania | Are You Serious | Truth Lies Low | Puma | Left Handed Kisses (with Fiona Apple) | Roma Fade | Three White Horses | Plasticities | Valleys of the Young | Pulaski at Night | Bellevue | Armchairs
Encore: Harvest (Neil Young cover) | Oh, Sister (Bob Dylan cover) (with Fiona Apple) | Give It Away | The New Saint Jude
Sound: ★★★★ out of 5
Energy: ★★★★½ out of 5
Live Performance: ★★★★ out of 5
Overall: ★★★★ out of 5
I feel like I have to say something about the folk rock crowd. My music taste is very eclectic, so I’ve been to metal, punk, industrial, jazz, reggae, indie, and hip hop shows. Never before have I witnessed a group of fans as rude as the folk rock fans. Several were hipsters, which doesn’t bother me (except aesthetically). What does bother me is when someone makes a smartass comment to my girlfriend about seating, instead of trying to sort it out like an adult. We also had a group of girls who were chatting throughout the entire performance, despite my requests for a little consideration. I didn’t pay $50/ticket to listen to you yapping, and yes, I can hear you.
Ironically, the nicest crowds are the fans of the most aggressive music — the metalheads. They look out for each other, for the most part. If you fall in the pit, they’ll help you up. They’re just excited to be there and they’re not trying to be cool or to be seen. I found the folk fans to be snobby, arrogant, and hateful. They made me hesitant to ever attend another folk event.
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