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by rhiannon last modified 18/06/2012 12:05 PM

Andrew Bird 06.06.12

by rhiannon last modified 18/06/2012 12:05 PM

Andrew Bird has been making very good music for a long time now. His current "Break It Yourself" album is exceptionally well-made and his back catalogue is almost overwhelming. Nevertheless, seeing him and a startlingly proficient band play live is something else again. The gentleness and warmth of the new album becomes a spontaneous rush of thrills and wonders.

Bird's own playing is mesmerising. He seems to strive so little. His magician's skills are in pulling off impossible swoops, changes and complexities without losing any of his beguiling calm. Those looping things he does to enrich the sound are close to being invisible as he works the mood and the moment. Every time he touches the violin strings, sings, whistles or strums a guitar it's part of the music. Part of the show. He holds a pause, steps back and gazes out, let's his violin go where it will. It's musical theatre at its best. As he has said, using the loops "keeps things risky onstage".

And the band. Like Bird they look lean and hungry, pared down to some ancient perfection. They make it look easy. Afro beat intro? Old Timey acoustic string band closing? Everly Brothers' harmony singing? One handed drumming while playing a keyboard with the left? All simple, all perfect, all with perfect dynamics and clarity. And, with Bird's restless immediacy driving it all, the sense of spontaneity and responsiveness is very strong. Bird and the band are looking at and listening to each other all the time. Music is being made as we listen, not just played from a script. This is why live music still breaks hearts. Andrew Dosh, Jeremy Ylvisaker, and Mike Lewis are the names. As a quartet with Bird they played a blinder.

The new songs are something special too. "Orpheo Looks Back", Danse Caribe", "Things Behind The Barn", "Near Death Experience Experience" "Give It Away", Fatal Shore". Musically they adopt organic fragments from all the noble sources and weave them together in ways that sequencers never can. The sound in the Trinity Centre was excellent. The crowd loved it all.

Sam Saunders

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