“What kind of music does he play?” a friend asks.
I don’t know. Andrew Bird is kinda hard to pin down. The embodiment of square peg, round hole. That is not a slight, in my book.
He is somewhere in the classical violinist, folk, singer–songwriter, Nashville troubadour, American Songbook, and one-man-band realm. It’s been a few years since Bird has found himself in Cincinnati, but in that interim he was comfortable headlining Coachella, playing the Ryman Auditorium, and holding a four-night residency at Chicago’s Fourth Presbyterian Church. He’s collaborated with the Handsome Family, Matt Berninger of The National, Fiona Apple, and everyone in between.
Wednesday night he took to the stage of a crowded Covington theater, sporting black jeans suspended by a generous buckle, a button-down, and a jacket that sparkled like the disco ball hovering above the stage. He surrounded himself with three mics, violin, guitar, xylophone, a grotto of vintage amplifiers to encase him, and a very capable three-piece backing band. Andrew brings enough smoke machines to make Spinal Tap proud; adds Sigur Rós-level drone and backlighting; plays classical, Sacred Harp-style, violin-looped, 12 deep through his DL-4; drops some reverb-laden Tele twang; and whistles on a level not heard since Roger Whittaker was recording albums. His down-home style is washed with state-of-the-art programmable LEDs to give the stage that green-gold-red to match the tobacco sunburst of his hollow-bodied Gibson.
“He’s in a league of his own,” my friend says.
I think Andrew Bird has figured out what we’re all not seeing. He has learned from the pioneers, has a sense of history. But to make anything that is unique, one must pick the high points from disparate genres and present the amalgamation. A cross-pollination of music’s history.
“What kind of music does he play?”
I don’t know…the good kind?
Andrew Bird played the Madison Theater in Covington, KY on September 14, 2016. Opening act was Gabriel Kahane.
Originally published on Polly Magazine.