By: Derek Jung
Andrew Bird, the acclaimed Chicago violinist, whistler, and indie darling, is deep into the touring cycle for his latest release, Are You Serious, an album we reviewed a few months back. The last time Bird was in the Cincinnati area, he was headlining Midpoint Music Festival in 2012. This time, he was across the river in Covington, KY at Madison Theater. The theater, currently undergoing some renovations that left two of the three levels bare and without carpet, was in stark contrast to his packed 2012 set in beautiful Washington Park for MPMF. As show time approached and the theater was not filling up like I expected, I wondered if the condition of the theater would be an ominous omen to what the show would be like. Unfortunately, the omen partially came true, but Bird and gang gave those who were there a solid performance.
I was surprised to see that Bird's backing band was completely different from the musicians that joined him in 2012, and their style was much more indie rock than the folk/country band that previously supported him. This made sense because Are You Serious is a more rock-centric album than Break It Yourself was. There was certainly much to enjoy during his nearly two hour set. The band opened with a cover of Alice Coltraine's "Journey in Satchidananda" and transitioned straight into "Capsized", the lead single from the album. I was immediately struck by how quickly the song comes alive with its jazzy drumming and rousing chorus.
Bird's looping is still the most fascinating part of his set. He crafts the backbone of the songs perfectly, layering one after the other on single takes. By the time the song actually begins, the song is so full sounding you'd think there are ten people on stage instead of four. His whistling was once again a marvel to hear live; it's so precise and the vibrato is amazing.
Most of the songs from Are You Serious sounded great live, with the lone exception of the Fiona Apple duet "Left Handed Kisses". Obviously Fiona Apple isn't touring with Bird, so he had to take both vocal parts. The conversation from the song gets a little lost in translation when both sides are coming from the same person. I think it would be a good idea if one of Bird's bandmates took the other half of the duet. Even though Bird played it off humorously, having an actual duet would give the song more coherency. Another surprising cover was Lou Reed's "Perfect Day" to open the encore. I'm not sure about perfect, but it was certainly a pretty great night.
Check out Are You Serious on Spotify.
Check out a crowd shot from the show of the title track "Are You Serious" below.
Who are we?
Derek Jung and Joseph Kathmann -- Just two ordinary (debatable) guys that love talking about music. You can read more about us here: