Knitting Factory

I came very close to skipping this show. It had been a long week: two U2 concerts in New Jersey had drained me of most of my energy. But it was Andrew Bird, whose newest release Andrew Bird and the Mysterious Production of Eggs is in the upper echelons of my favorite 2005 releases. A 7:30 start and an intriguing opening act was enough to convince me to go.

Turns out, I'm really happy I didn't back out. Andrew put on a highly enjoyable show, full of humor, intelligence, sorrow and heartbreak. It was great fun watching Mr. Bird build each song from live violin samples, guitar fragments, chimes and the perfectly placed whistle. Only Andrew Bird could put his lips together and blow like a theremin without descending into novelty.

Using this simple live setup, Andrew's compositions were stripped of their studio ornamentations and his clever wordplays became the focus. Spinning tales both political and personal, Andrew's deft handling of metaphors and rich double-meanings truly set him apart from other singer-songwriters. Take for example "Sovay" from Mysterious with its doomsday Don Quixotes blasting "Ride of the Valkyries" on their way to "blowing us back to the seventies". On the album the song has a sweet, lilting quality, but live its apocalyptic edge was sharpened to serrate.

On stage Andrew possessed his songs with a manic almost neurotic edge. Never standing still or striking aloof poses, he was nervous tics, mumbled comments and false starts. Whether it's a persona, a fear of crowds or just who he is, it was beguiling and endearing. The sold-out audience was on his side from the start.

I mentioned at the top that there was an intriguing opening act. Well, there was suppose to be one. When I got to the Knitting Factory I learned that Antena had canceled their entire tour, including this show. I tried to find out what happened, but no one was willing to offer anything other than a shrug of the shoulders. So Chicago songwriter Chris Mills filled in and did an admirable job given the circumstances. I'm not familiar with his music, but it was good enough to warrant further research.

My photos of the show didn't turn out too well due to the Knitting Factory's low lighting.