Review: Andrew Bird at Shepherd’s Bush Empire

Andrew Bird… charming, charming man. I absolutely loved this show, completely brilliant.

I’m not usually a fan of ‘big’ venues, but when I got there the Empire seemed much smaller than I remembered, and the stage was much lower too. Perfect! I had a pass so I went and sat in the photo pit and chatted with numerous folk about all the awesome upcoming shows we have.

The first act was Snowbird. At first I felt awkward shooting them, the stage was low and I was really close. At that point I was the only photographer there, too. I did the 3 songs then Shepherd’s Bush makes you check in your camera, so I went and checked it in and came back to watch. Stephenie Dosen looks frighteningly like a porcelain doll. I’d like to see her do some sort of robotic dance. She says some bizarre things too, but they’re sweet and pretty funny. She’s got a lovely voice and it was an enjoyable set.

Next it was Cortney Tidwell. Third time I’ve seen her this year. I did the photos and came back, I met up with photographer Rachel. Turns out we would be the only photographers in the photopit. I think everyone was at Tori Amos. While I was in the semi-backstage bag drop area I saw Stephanie Dosen carrying a chair looking a bit confused.

Anyway, time for Andrew Bird, hooray! I was squeeing and getting excitable. Amidst all the other stuff I listen to I sometimes forget how much I love Andrew Bird. I think Noble Beast is an absolutely brilliant record, one of the best this year. I had the pleasure of watching him play last year, and he just has the most endearing stage presence. He stands on tippy toes, waves his hands around majestically, and squints his eyes. His first few songs all blended into each other, so we had longer in the pit than we should have. In that time he played Dark Matter, and A Nervous Tick Motion (!!!). I couldn’t help but smile hugely and sing along. Last time I saw him he mostly only played new songs from the yet to be released Noble Beast, and only a couple of old ones. After they kicked us out I quickly dropped my bag in the store, then went out the stage door and ran back round the front of the venue and up the stairs so I could go join Adam on the balcony. We had a great view, I enjoyed sitting up there. I can’t remember the exact setlist. He did Effigy pretty soon after I got there, it’s one of my favourites from the new record, as is Anonanimal. I was hoping for The Privateers but he didn’t do it. Fitz &Dizzy Spells and Tenuousness were brilliant. I think the full band sound was perfect. Andrew did his usual looping and manic head shaking. Also, he had the cutest socks on the face of the planet on. Look.

I really love Cataracts hugely. I think it has quite possibly my favourite whistle solo in it. I wanted to hear him play it last year but he didn’t, and (with the exception of Beirut and Siki Siki Baba) I haven’t been having much luck hearing what I want. Before Andrew was about to start a new song, literally, Adam said he wanted Why? and I said ‘I want to hear Cataracts. But I know he won’t play it’. Adam said ‘you never know’. And I, ever the optimist, said ‘nah, he won’t’. Then he started playing Cataracts (!!!!!!!!!!). Amazing. He switched it around and slowed it down alot, the whistle solo was completely different, but it was still wondeful. He also did Imitosis, and Dr Stringz and Why?. He did Fake Palindromes and Tables and Chairs. He played for perhaps an hour and a quarter-ish. I loved it, brilliant set.

Andrew Bird is a hugely talented musician, he’s charming and so fun to watch live. Go see him!

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4 Responses to Review: Andrew Bird at Shepherd’s Bush Empire

  1. Endymion May 12, 2009 at 10:50 am #

    It was one of his best London gigs for sure. Personally I don’t think he’ll ever top Mysterious Production and I always miss these tunes now that his repertoire’s growing but last night was a great mix of new and old – and even covers. The loops and whistles might have given way to more band music but the show was none the worse for it, providing a heady mixture that shows that he really is still a remarkable talent. He was personable and funny, not too nervous. Great gig – and I’ve seen him seven times in London over the years.

  2. Melanie May 12, 2009 at 5:28 pm #

    This was the first time I have had the privilege to see Andrew Bird live, as the gigs are always sold out before I get a hold of tickets. I had high expectations because of what I have heard about his live show. Mysterious Production is my favorite of anything else he has done and as I hold Noble Beast in high regard, although I’m not ready to say I think it’s one of the best records this year.
    It started off brilliantly I enjoyed the way he kicked things off. Sadly as the show lingered on and so did his whistle solos I grew tired and well, was actually quite bored. I respect what he was trying for but I suppose I was expecting more of an indie rock show and felt that his music came across too casual and slow. I was upset that some songs didn’t sound similar enough to the albums as he would slip the highest notes to stay safe and instead went lower, making some of the songs take on too much of a different feel. Perhaps he has been on tour too long, I’m not sure. All of that being said, it is impossible to say I didn’t leave thinking he is massively talented but at the same time feeling that it all was lacking something. I won’t be needing to see him ever again.

    • anikainlondon May 12, 2009 at 5:48 pm #

      Really? I suppose I can see why you would say that. Personally, I love when musicians switch things up and play songs different from on the record, especially when you see a band more than once. But I guess sometimes you just want to hear the songs how you know them, which I completely understand.

      Mysterious Production is my favourite of his records too, I’m intrigued to know what you think the best records of the year are so far…

  3. Heather May 12, 2009 at 6:55 pm #

    Ohhhh love of my life, the Bird-Man. The new version of “Cataracts” is absolutely sublime I hope he plays it when I see him in Berkeley in July.

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