Let me just start off by saying that Andrew Bird is probably the most talented indie musician alive today. He exudes musicality in a way that no other indie performer I’ve ever seen does and I suspect this comes from his classical violin training. Watching him perform live feels the slightest bit voyeuristic, when he plays the violin sections of his songs it feels like you are watching him practice unbeknownst to him. He paces around the stage with this intense look on his face like he doesn’t realize that he is standing in front of 600 people. I didn’t get the feeling that he was just going through the motions of performing, he was genuinely invested in the songs and it showed in his intensity. I was also amazed at how seemlesly he works with his drummer/keyboard/various other instruments player, Martin Dosh. They worked largely independently, with only a few sideways glances to start songs off, yet it was so tight that it sounded like one person playing everything.
The setlist was mostly from Armchair Apocrypha, with a few highlights from The Mysterious Production of Eggs such as Skin Is, My and Fake Palindromes. He also played Why, which I’m pretty sure is something he only plays live. That song was fascinating to watch because it involved intricate looping of himself playing violin, he recorded at least 3 different tracks to play back and each had to match up exactly. The first time he tried this people clapping screwed up his counting and he politely asked them to stop before trying again and nailing it. Fake Palindromes was the highlight of the night for me because he led into it with Dr. Stringz. A very small percentage of the audience realized how awesome this was, but it was nonetheless. Other highlights included Sythian Empires, which he said was his favorite song off the new album, and the fact that shortly after taking the stage he took off his shoes to reveal mismatched (but to his credit, both striped) socks.
The other thing that made this concert so incredibly amazing was the crowd. I don’t know why I don’t go to more concerts is Portland, I have never encountered a more polite audience. I was in the front row and I had enough room to put my hands on my hips and spin in a circle without taking out the people around me. There were no hoardes of thirteen-year-old girls with massive purses shoving their way to the front (why does a thirteen-year-old need a purse that big? What do they have in there? Lip gloss? It’s not like they have keys and checkbooks and planners to carry around) or creepy skinny hipster boys standing just a little too close for comfort and I didn’t come home drenched in other people’s sweat. Another anomaly: we got there an hour early and there were 3 other people in line…3 people. If we had been in Seattle we would have been behind a two-thirds of the crowd an hour before the show (when I saw The Shins the people at the front of the line had been sitting in the pouring rain for FIVE HOURS by the time the doors opened). Seattle needs to take a page out of Portland’s book and chill out a little bit, it makes for a much more enjoyable concert-going experience.
ETA: I got a recording of the whole concert. It’s got pretty good sound and all his talking is still in there. Here’s the link: