Thursday, September 20, 2007

Andrew Bird, 9/20 - Madison, WI

The sound at the UW Memorial Union Theater is amazing. I bet even the most monumentally shitty of bands, for the purpose of brevity let's just say the Mars Volta, could sound good at this place. Thankfully I don't think I'll ever have to put that theory to the test; hearing Andrew Bird's crystal-clear whistling in there was enough to make me a believer. It's a good thing he doesn't suck, because I'd have had to potentially admit to a terrible band sounding ok just because of the wonderful acoustics.

Or maybe it wasn't the theater. Let me rephrase that. Maybe it wasn't only the theater. Maybe only great bands sound great in the great theater. Maybe the room will make anything sound like it was mixed by a 14-year old and was amplified through a broken speaker from a 1987 Ford Escort unless you whistle into the microphone just right. If that's the case, Andrew Bird got it right on his first try and made sure that each and every fan had a fan-tastic (get it?) evening.

It's pretty obvious that I wasn't the only one who enjoyed myself, since so many people felt it necessary to loudly profess their physical attraction to Mr. Bird (both men and women). How do you respond to such heckling (is this heckling?)? You say the most absolutely perfect and hilarious line possible, with perfect comedic timing: "Let's appreciate me in moderation."! There was also this great stage prop that was like a phonograph, only the giant conical speaker was actually two giant conical speakers facing outward in opposite directions, and the contraption spun whenever a certain pedal on the stage was stepped on. Every time Andrew Bird made the thing spin, I giggled, so I think the only acceptable name for this thing that spun like a helicopter and made me giggle is a "gigglecopter". Does the word "gigglecopter" make you giggle?

Gigglecopters aside, iIf Andrew Bird recorded his live show and took away all of the false starts and audience noises, he could release the end result as and Andrew Bird covers album. How perplexing would that be? Andrew Bird does Andrew Bird. Ignoring the dirty things you could think about that title, it'd be pretty novel for an artist to release their own covers album. Most just do it on b-sides compilations under the guise of "alternate version", but I wonder if some bands might pretend they're a different band whenever they play their own songs just so they can let their imaginations run rampant and produce some truly inspired "alternate versions". Andrew Bird does a particularly great job of reworking pretty much every song, sometimes such that the live version is hardly distinguishable as the one recorded for his albums. For the most part, you can tell, though. He'll downplay certain guitar riffs, emphasize vocal lines that are melodically different than the recorded version, add violin and whistling like nobody's business, and sometimes, just rock the shit out of any given song.

I don't remember the entire setlist, but I know for sure that "Opposite Day" was on there, which is awesome because I love that song and we, the audience, were told that it doesn't often make it to the live stage. I'd like to know how rarely it's played live so I can tell people that "I saw him play 'Opposite Day'! That's only been done X times before! I am awesome." I probably wouldn't actually do that (unless the number was staggeringly less than forty-eight). Most of what was played came from the two newest albums, which was ok by me. The first few songs off of The Swimming Hour would have been cool live, but I don't think there's enough whistling in them. When you're in a venue with great acoustics, you have to whistle as much as possible. Some of the ones I remember being performed include: "Fiery Crash", "A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left", "Imitosis", "Fake Palindromes", "Scythian Empire", "Skin Is, My", "Tables and Chairs", "Simple X", and what I think was"Spare-Ohs," which was introduced with a story about how Andrew's first batch of chickens were victim to his poor chicken coop-construction skills and subsequently became raccoon dinners. The new chickens, we were assured, are safe because the guy from down the road with the yellow motorcycle comes to check on them. The old dead chickens' feathers were used by sparrows as nest material in his chimney and thus those chickens are now ash, or at least their feathers are. RIP chickens. I'm pretty sure "Heretics" was in there, too.

Am I leaving out anything? Oh, yeah, I bought a shirt that's so long that the bottom of it hits me mid-thigh. The girl who sold it said it would shrink, and I'm hoping it does. It has a bird on it. Ah, that reminds me! I couldn't believe how skinny Andrew Bird is. His legs are toothpick-thin and give the impression that he's actually assuming some sort of "bird persona" by having exceptionally skinny legs. Granted, besides his name, the legs and the t-shirts he was selling (oh, and I guess the cover artwork for Armchair Apocrypha), there's not much bird similarity. Oh wait. He talked about chickens and sparrows. Does Andrew Bird wish he were a bird, or just merely love and appreciate birds? Is all this bird stuff just coincidental given his last name, or would it still be there if his name were "Andrew Word"? And would his beautiful songs all be attributed to his last name of "Word" if that were the case? I have so many questions for you, Mr. Bird! Another time, perhaps.

As usual, I'm concluding with a remark about being tired. I'm tired. I'm going to bed.

Anti-bears: 4.6 - This show was pretty exceptional. The theater was very cool and modern-looking, the sound was crisp, clean, and loud enough, and Andrew Bird and his backing band were in fine, fine form. Parking was also less expensive that I thought it'd be, and the wait in the garage to leave wasn't terribly long.

Bears: 0.9 - No food or beverage in the theater, so I had to discard my ice-cream cone prior to entering. The policy also meant there was no beer for sale and I would have liked one. Finally, I was a little bit tired. All minor issues that didn't really negatively impact my evening.


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