Skip to content

Andrew Bird makes church feel quite cozy

December 22, 2009

This cell phone picture can't convey how "gezelligheid" the concert really was.

Andrew Bird
December 15, 2009
Fourth Presbyterian Church – Chicago, Ill.

Andrew Bird strode slowly on stage and took his seat before a row of amplifiers. As he drew his violin up to his chin the pulpit became alive with light: a bright blue covering the walls, a faint luminescence coming from behind the stained glass, a deep glow radiating from the giant horns that serve as his PA and a hopeful gleam in the eyes of each fan that filled the Fourth Presbyterian Church.

He began slowly, delicately bowing a few notes and looping it to pluck out a different rhythm. He built his rhythms up from the ground, setting layer upon layer to create a magnificent solo concerto. The notes resounded through the gothic arches of the church and created a real feeling of intimacy in an impersonal space.

It is fitting that he used the Dutch term “gezelligheid” to describe the concert. The closest English translation is “coziness,” or a warm, amicable and joyous atmosphere, which is exactly what Andrew Bird created, all by himself.

His first offerings were nothing that could be found on any of his studio albums, but as he would describe it, the genesis of his songs and the development of his luscious arrangements. Bird displayed the way he writes his music at his farm in Western Illinois and put on a clinic on how loops work and how wonderful they can sound.

After a couple “songs,” I was settled in to enjoy the concert from my seat in the rear balcony and I was pretty content even though my view was partially obstructed. Then a man with the Jam Productions sticker on his chest inspected our view and asked us if we’d like a better seat. I owe that find production company a big thank you, because from my last row seat they moved me literally to front row center.

From my new seat I was close enough to hear Mr. Bird click his foot pedals to set the loops for each song. It was quite an experience, being so close, at times it felt as though his songs were being played just for me.

Sitting so near allowed me a closer look at the man who had captured the audience’s minds and ears. He was dressed nicely in a suit and tie, but somewhere he had missed a button on his shirt, and the sleeves of his jacket were unbuttoned at the ends. He was very quietly messy, or more accurately he was beautifully dressed on top of a mess.

His attire reminded me of his music: he was controlling madness. Each click of his delay pedal created a new layer of chaos to his songs, and yet as he pulled his bow across the strings of his violin he pulled each part together, creating beautiful, ornate songs.

Besides playing the infant versions of songs he performed a variety of full songs from albums spannig his career. His set list included “Nomenclature,” “Scythian Empires,” “The Happy Birthday Song,” and even songs from his Bowl of Fire days.

He shared a few stories between the seriousness of his music. One of his tales told about what he had intended for the chorus of “Imitosis.” He had the idea to include a song from Sesame Street performed by the men who lived in and cleaned the capital I. He played the chorus and explained how the producers of the children’s show refused to give him the rights to use it on any Armchair Apochrypha.

Bird was forced to do his whole concert from a stool because of a foot injury he suffered in Minnesota. Though he was a bit bummed about being seated, it did follow the intimate nature of the show and even added a bit of theatricality when he waved his bow over the top of his head to signal the rotating horn speakers behind him to begin spinning.

It was quite an enchanted evening, and even though the concert was set in a Presbyterian church as the first song of his encore began, a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Oh, Sister,” a woman in the row behind me began quaking to the sound of his music. It was as if she was literally moved by the sound of the music.

I can’t blame her, the encore was among the most beautiful and touching parts of the evening. Bird stepped back from his seat on stage and played his violin acoustic, without the aid of any effects or amplifiers. As his voice softly rang out through horns it was pure and sounded holy in the expansive church.

After he hobbled off stage for the final time and the house lights went up, but no one wanted to leave. However, it had nothing to do the artic chill that possessed Michigan Avenue, but everything to do with the warmth that Andrew Bird left inside each member of the audience.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Courtney permalink
    December 26, 2009 12:31 am

    The words you write are exactly what I was thinking….I just can’t write them like you! 😉

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: