Review: Andrew Bird at Union Chapel

On Tuesday night I was lucky enough to get myself a ticket to see the wonderfully talented Mr Andrew Bird play in the beautiful Union Chapel. I caught him play at the, also wonderful, St Giles Church… and so the prospect of hearing his wonderful songs in a church again was well worth the ticket price. 

Moriarty opened the show and managed to warm the chapel with their fun, playful old time jazzy, cabaret style folk music. You know it’s the hallmark of  good band when you’ve seen them before and then you see them on the bill of a show you are going to and think ‘oh good, I’d like to see them again’. Perhaps the majority of the crowd were unfamiliar with the Franco-American’s light hearted tunes but you could tell from the applause and cheers between songs that they were most certainly being won over. The band all gather round one single mic; the acoustics of the chapel leant itself perfectly to this minimalist setup. Each band member had their chance to shine, with some brilliant harmonica, spoken word, guitar and (crazed ninja-style) glock parts. Thoroughly recommend catching this band if you have the chance.

Then! Andrew Bird o’clock! The Bird man always looks very suave, and in the seated venue it all felt like a pleasingly sophisticated affair. It’s amazing how he can fill such a big space with his looping. The whole chapel was loving it and hung on his every word. He alters the arrangements of songs when performing live, often making them even more magnificent. I foolishly did not note down the setlist, but he played a nice mixture of old and new. Early on in the set her played a favourite of mine – Sweetbreads. He explained about he felt it was too cheery, which is why he spliced it up and turned it into Dark Matter. The song he played live was quite similar to the original, and a real delight to hear- it’s my favourite Andrew Bird song (which you can find on Fingerlings). Oh No was stunning, the live version even more wonderful than the original. There’s a playful sense to Andrew Bird; he brings a stuffed animal to the stage with him and frequently walks in circles and activates the giant gramophone behind him (he calls it Spinny), and always slips off his shoes. It’s endearing and there was a really warm atmosphere.

Effigy, Anonanimal and Tenuousness were all beautiful- three of my favourites from Noble Beast. He treated the audience to a completely brand new song, it was about the ship Lusitania and its sinking. It was fantastic and I can’t wait to hear it recorded. He played MX Missiles because he hadn’t played it in a while. It was a treat. Why? is always fun live, it’s a playful and sweet song. He closed with Plasticities

He returned for an un-amplified song at the side of the stage, it was perfect. He is a very talented musician, listen to his albums and don’t miss the chance to see him live. He’s wonderful both with a band and by himself. 

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3 Responses to Review: Andrew Bird at Union Chapel

  1. norman November 12, 2009 at 6:15 pm #

    He never fails to astound and thrill, however I found the audience on Tuesday night really let him down. It all seemed terribly polite and I really felt they weren’t ‘getting him’. I also went on Weds – what a difference! Completely different atmosphere, Andrew himself seemed to enjoy it much more and we got two encore songs instead of just the one including a Bob Dylan cover. He even hung around afterwards in the chapel to chat to people. A true musical genius.

  2. Maxwell November 14, 2009 at 10:52 am #

    Not sure what show you were at?? Thought AB just mailed it in at this concert. Seemed disinterested and uncomfortable, even forgot his own lyrics a few times! Use of the looping multitrack recorder on every tune just made them blur together as a set of non-descript violin mash-ups. Love his albums but haven’t been so bummed by a live show in a long time. Make sure if you see him live you see him with a band or you are in for some of the most self-absorbed tosh this side of morrissey!

    • anikainlondon November 14, 2009 at 11:46 am #

      The song he forgot the lyrics on WAS a good few years old- he’s not a robot! Especially considering his lyrics are so dense, it’s only human to forget a line or two. And he handled it in such a charming and sweet way. Not to mention the fact that he said he had only just arrived off the ferry, he was pretty exhausted I should imagine. And it was hardly self-absorbed- her wasn’t even that experimental with the songs, they mostly stayed true to the originals. And I HAVE seen him with a band and he was good, I would recommend both.

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