Thursday, February 2, 2017

Andrew Bird at Madison Square Garden

Violinist Andrew Bird was trained in the Suzuki method from the age of four in Chicago, Illinois. Growing up, he was surrounded by classical music and learned to play many pieces by ear. As a child, he became interested in bluegrass, Irish tunes and English and Scottish folk music and, as a teen, he sought exposure to gypsy music as well as American country blues and pre-war jazz. Swing, calypso, and American folk were later influences. Shortly after graduating from university with a bachelor's degree in violin performance in 1996, Bird joined the band Squirrel Nut Zippers, appearing on three of the band's albums between 1996 and 1998. He then formed Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire, recording three albums from 1998 to 2001, while also moonlighting in the jazz group Kevin O'Donnell's Quality Six. Bird launched a solo career by chance in 2002, when his band members were unable to get to a concert. Bird's 10th and most recent solo album, Are You Serious, was released on April 1, 2016. Bird is presently based in Los Angeles, California.

Opening for the Lumineers at Madison Square Garden tonight, Andrew Bird sang, played violin, guitar, and glockenspiel, and whistled melodies through several songs. Accompanied by his band (guitarist Steve Elliot, bassist Alan Hampton, drummer Kevin O’Donnell), Bird's largely acoustic-led set hinted at folk while the changing rhythms suggested classical and jazz, but Bird's music was summarily none of the above. Sounding similar to Sufjan Stevens at times, much of Bird's music was an eclectic collection of soundscapes, much of which sounded like soundtracks for invisible visuals. Seemingly more appropriate for a conservatory rather than a sports arena, the roots elements and the whistling in Bird's set nonetheless captured the attention of the Lumineers fans.

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