Andrew Bird Brings Warmth to Carnegie Hall on a Cold December Night
  • WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 14, 2016

  • Posted by: Kirsten Spruch

[Photo Credit: Kirsten Spruch]

If this Andrew Bird show took place one month earlier, it would have made it into our top shows of the year, no question. It being my first time at Carnegie Hall, I walked into the venue in ripped jeans (stupid, stupid girl) and was instantly surrounded by an "upper class air." I suddenly felt rich, and I thought Bird's indie rock performance with a hint of violin would tone that down, but to my surprise, it only added to that luxurious feeling.

On Monday, December 12, Bird put on a special show. His set featured two halves - the first with several special guests and the second with Bird and his full band. After starting off the show solo with "Hole in the Ocean Floor," Bird welcomed classical singer-songwriter Gabriel Kahane on stage to perform a couple of songs with nothing but Bird's violin and Kahane's piano. Before diving into "Sic of Elephants," Bird explained that he originally wrote the song when George Bush was reelected as president, and then he adapted it for Donald Trump. He started to sing, "You were right, there was never reason to worry," and immediately the mood was lifted and the audience chuckled in unison. The song that was originally performed with Jim James sounded just as good with Kahane. Then Bird brought out Chris Thile, who I personally hardcore fan-girled over. Thile, best known as the frontman for bluegrass group The Punch Brothers and acoustic trio Nickel Creek is noted as one of the greatest mandolin players of all time. He's essentially the Jimi Hendrix of mandolins, and he proved that during the show. Soaring through "Saints Preservus," "Chemical Switches," and covers like The Handsome Family's "My Sister's Tiny Hands," Thile plucked his way into oblivion. Every time he'd solo, the audience would go nuts, and I think we all agreed that it would've been perfectly fine if he decided to stay on stage for the rest of the show (he came back for the encore though, and we'll take what we can get).



The next guest was the last person I would ever expect, the legendary Bob Dorough, a.k.a. the composer of the Schoolhouse Rock! tunes. It was his 93rd birthday and he looked ecstatic to be there. He hopped on the piano bench and said, "Hey kids, this is the song that got me the gig!" And then began "Three Is a Magic Number." Yes, they actually played that song - and they didn't stop there! With Dorough leading on the piano and Bird on the violin/mic, Thile on the mandolin, and an unknown guitarist, bassist, and drummer, they also performed "Figure Eight" and "My Hero, Zero." It was surreal, and watching Bird attempting to sing the lyric "One times eight is eight, two times eight is 16 / Three times eight is 24, four times eight is 32 / And five times eight is 40, you know" with a serious face was entertaining enough in itself.

"Capsized" marked the beginning of the second half. "We're going to push through tonight and play a lot of music tonight, so if you have to leave, that's cool. No worries," Bird said casually, which made us laugh again. And he wasn't kidding - they played a lot of music, but some of the peaks were "Are You Serious," "Heretics," and "Left Handed Kisses" with stunning powerhouse vocalist Shilpa Ray taking Fiona Apple's place.

Getting to watch Bird loop violin harmonies, glockenspiel, whistles, and electric guitar over a soft bed of bass grooves and intricate drumming patterns is simultaneously calming and exhilarating. And getting to experience it in such an extravagant setting was just the icing on the cake. We actually got to see all of the sounds being made right there in front of our very eyes - Bird was not only a performer but a composer and producer (and a whistler!). On a cold mid-December night with the holidays quickly approaching, there was no performance more appropriate than the warmth of Andrew Bird and his band.

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