Los Angeles - Andrew Bird has been around the indie rock world for quite some time, but for whatever reason it seems as though he is just now receiving the attention he deserves. The Illinois-born multi-instrumentalist got his start playing violin. While that instrument plays a key role on his records and in his live show, the instrumentation has continually become streamlined. His latest album, Are You Serious is the best in his discography and could very well go down as one of the best records of 2016. On the back of that excellent release, Andrew Bird has been hard at work touring the country, and he made a stop at Los Angeles’ gorgeous adaptively-reused Theater at The Ace Hotel last Sunday.
Bird and company started the night with a jarring piece of instrumental music, which was guided by his unique violin playing but incorporated all of the standard elements of a rock band: guitars, bass, and drums. After giving the audience a taste of the avant-garde, the band began taking a trip through the astounding new songs from Are You Serious, as well as offering a sampling of the entire Andrew Bird discography. The first true song from Bird’s L.A. set was one of the singles from Are You Serious: “Capsized.” The song features a bluesy vocal delivery and opens with minimalist instrumentation. When the refrain of “When you wake up / Another sun rise / Another break up / This ship is capsized” was reached, the entire band kicked into gear, getting the audience into rhythm very early on.
The next song, “A Nervous Tic Motion of The Head to The Left,” was pulled from one of Andrew Bird’s earliest solo albums, Andrew Bird & the Mysterious Production of Eggs; it was an early-set nod to Bird’s long-time fans. It was only after concluding the second song of the evening that Bird addressed the enormous seated crowd before him, warmly saying, “Hello friends, I’m very happy to be seeing you.” He continued to pull songs from deep in his discography, with the following two being “Tenuousness” from Noble Beast and “Lusitania” from Break It Yourself.
Bird then returned to his new material, performing the title track from Are You Serious. The creeping indie folk song has the kind of chorus that is quietly infectious – the type that you don’t realize you have stuck in your head until it is too late. The entire audience probably left the venue humming the refrain in their heads as they waited for their valet or Uber to pick them up and whisk them into the night. The next song, “Truth Lies Low” was also pulled from the album.
While the entire set was enjoyable from beginning to end, there was one special treat for the audience on Sunday night. One of the handful of singles released from Are You Serious is “Left Handed Kisses.” The tune is a stirring duet between Bird and jazzy pop vocalist Fiona Apple. While the song is probably great just being sung by Bird, there is no way he could ever replicate or even do justice to the back and forth delivery between the male and female vocalist. Luckily for the crowd, Apple just happened to be in Los Angeles on Sunday and joined her collaborator on stage. Despite the fact that these two likely do not perform together often, they had perfect chemistry, blowing the audience away with the performance.
Andrew Bird has carved out a nice little niche for himself in the indie-folk / baroque pop scene, one that is refreshingly not that crowded. There are not a lot of artists who are able to blend the opulence of baroque chamber music with the accessibility of pop, but Bird has proved on album after album and show after show that he is a master.