By the time opener John Grant sang, “I am the greatest motherfucker that you’re ever gonna meet” (from his song “GMF”), the general admission section of The Masonic was spilling over with people waiting for Andrew Bird. Someone standing close to the stage said to his friend beside him, “As soon as I heard [Bird’s] newest album, I knew I needed to see it live.”
Bird, who has been performing as a solo musician for almost fifteen years, had a wealth of music to choose from for the night. He and his band, The Hands of Glory, played for nearly two hours, devoting half of the performance to Are You Serious (2016) and the other half to songs from past albums and EPs. They began with a momentous performance of “Capsized” from Are You Serious before going back in time, playing “A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left” from The Mysterious Production of Eggs (2005), “Tenuousness” from Noble Beast (2009), and “Lusitania” from Break It Yourself (2012). Bird looked significantly older at this show than at previous ones. Dressed in all black and with longer, shaggier hair than before, he looked more like a classically aging rock star than a whistling violinist. The intensity was high; during the show his violin bow broke twice, and he continually thrust his leg and arms up, using his entire body.
New songs this time included “Are You Serious,” “Roma Fade,” “Truth Lies Low,” “Valleys of the Young,” and “Puma.” Before “Left Handed Kisses,” Bird announced that it was time for a duet, despite the fact Fiona Apple was not in town. “She’s a bit of a homebody,” he said, adding that he had been spoiled the last two shows in LA, during which she had made guest appearances.
Continuing to cherry pick, Bird played “Three White Horses” from Hands of Glory (2012), “Plasticines” from Armchair Apocrypha (2007), and “Pulaski At Night” from I Want To See Pulaski At Night (2013). The instrumentation for many of these sounded different—perhaps after touring for so many years, Bird wanted a new sound. Making greater use of the bassist and drummer from Are You Serious, old songs sounded like they had been temporarily upgraded for the night.
Toward the end of the show, Bird told the audience that San Francisco was the best city to perform in and that in 1998 he self-booked a tour that included the Elbo Room. His encore consisted of two covers of The Handsome Family, from cover album, Things Are Really Great Here, Sort Of… (2014). Before ending the night with a fan favorite, “Fake Palindromes,” Bird described an idea he had for a children’s TV show called Professor Socks. “I even wrote a theme song,” he said performing the tune. The crowd loved it.
Article by Valerie Law