BINGHAMTON, NY—I’ve been aware of Andrew Bird’s eclectic folk/gypsy/indie rock music for some time now so, when I heard he was making his local debut at Binghamton University, I jumped at the chance to attend. I knew the venue would be a winner; the university’s theaters are prime, acoustically-superior spots for just about any form of entertainment that requires an audience with pulse, eyes and ears. However, I wasn’t sure of what to expect from Bird’s touring ensemble and figured he could run the gamut from a simple four-piece outfit to something more big band-esque, figuring musicians would be needed to convey the richness of his songs and really wow the audience.
I was wrong. Bird was only Bird. Man and violin, guitars and glockenspiel.
After Bird’s percussionist Martin Dosh performed, Bird opened his set with a delicious taste of his violin magic then politely introduced himself. (I can’t go further without correcting myself: Considering Dosh to be simply a percussionist is too restrictive and skims over his obvious multi-instrumentalist talents. Dosh’s set was filled with atmospheric, instrumental hip-hop, expertly looped and tweaked samples, and just the right amount of banter.) There was a commonality between Dosh and Bird in one regard: It occurred to me that, although Bird is an untouchable violinist and musician, his voice is also remarkable. During songs from earlier releases, such as “Why?,” “Plasticities” and “Nervous Tic Motion Of The Head To The Left,” Bird’s powerful vocals and endearing whistling won me over.
One gets the feeling that Bird is capable of making beautiful music out of the most random, unlikely objects and can move and impress his audience on any given evening at any venue. His talent as a performer and composer was only made more evident and enviable as the night went on and shone brightly during his tender rendition of “It’s Not Easy Being Green” (only made sweeter if dear Kermie had made an appearance). This isn’t to say that Bird played it safe during his set. At one point, he challenged himself with a “flippin’ hard” song and seemed to reinterpret others on the spot, delivering more of an experimental show and not one of studio replicas. Bird’s performance was one of fluidity, interpretation and reinvention of artistic maturity and respect for his audience’s willingness to hear a song differently.
As promised, Dosh rejoined Bird for the set’s closing songs and an unparalleled session. Although Bird stopped it three times because it “had a weird feeling to it,” getting the right feel made for a rambling, giddy mix of both musicians’ strong suits, marked by glances, nods and synergy shared between two talented, complementary musicians. Together, Bird and Dosh produced more sound and music than ever from a towering wall of Marshalls. But, for those hoping for a gentler Bird-as-folk-singer, he did not disappoint and delivered an encore under a single spotlight, violin in hand and whistler at the ready. An encore that, if I could, I’d play on an endless loop.