Gathered around a stage normally reserved for theater performances, teenie boppers mixed with 20-something hipsters and older music lovers as they all waited to see Andrew Bird play a sold-out show at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. Bird, a classically trained violinist turned indie-rock artist, began the show nervously alone, illuminated by a lone spotlight and obscured by a cloud from a fog machine. In a Buddy Hollyesque stance behind the microphone, he wore an old-fashioned three-piece suit and tie, with a guitar strapped around his neck and his violin on the chair behind him. He placed a stuffed monkey on a speaker, kicked off his shoes to reveal multicolored striped socks, and began to play.
The whole show had an anachronistic feel to it. Oversized gramophone speakers were positioned behind the musicians, adding a vintage touch, and the concert had a variety show format, with multi-instrumentalist Martin Dosh, bassist Jeremy Ylvisaker, and singer Haley Bonar all playing their own music as well as backing up Bird. At one point, Bonar remarked, “This is some vaudeville shit.”
Bird’s eerie and haunting blend of musical styles is difficult to pin down. The violin features prominently in the act, but he also plays guitar and glockenspiel and is one of the most accomplished whistlers I’ve heard. His vocal and guitar style resembles Jeff Buckley in its mournful and haunting sound. He also mixes blues, jazz, and his classical violin into the music.
The eclectic demeanor relaxed what could have been a strangely uptight show. There were some strange moments—one fan got kicked out for taking photos, and another was hushed for trying to start a “slow clap”— but the intimate theater setting allowed Bird’s music to take center stage.
You can Bird’s newest music video below.