SXSW: Andrew Bird

Andrew Bird made his first and only performance of SXSW 2012 last night, March 15, at Stubb’s BBQ. Bird closed out the talent-heavy NPR showcase, following the likes of Alabama Shakes, Dan Deacon, and Fiona Apple. I had been looking forward to this show since hearing that Bird was making the trip to Austin, and he did not disappoint.

For the past few years, since releasing the album Noble Beast in 2009, Andrew Bird has been touring solo, standing on stage with nothing but his collection of foot pedals, violin, glockenspiel, and guitar. I was lucky enough to see one of these shows when he played at Benefit Braddock near Pittsburgh last October. That setting was intimate, a one-hundred seat theatre in an old library, extremely fitting knowing Bird’s reputation for using $10 words. The night was amazing, and is to date one of the best live shows I’ve experienced. Seeing Bird construct such layered and intricate songs all by himself was mesmerizing, and I’ve been dying to see him again ever since.

However, his show at the NPR showcase was a different beast. Bird just released his newest record, Break it Yourself on March 2, and its sound is far more raw and energetic than the airy, natural Noble Beast. After a few years of solo touring, Bird has brought the band back, now accompanied by drums, backup vocals and bass, and it resulted in a much more high key show. But this doesn’t mean it wasn’t equally enjoyable. This set up was far more fitting for the setting, and I found myself completely absorbed for the duration of the set. The crowd of about 2000 at Stubb’s ate it up, cheering at every pause and whistle, and going nuts when he played older favorites.

Bird started the set with a few songs from the new record, as to be expected this close to the release. Although you could tell that the crowd was mostly unfamiliar with the new tracks, people were still energized, especially during one of Birds more rough-and-tumble songs, and the first single off the new album, “Eyeoneye”. But the highlight of the set for me was the closer, “Fake Palindromes” off of an older album, The Mysterious Production of Eggs. Bird is known for changing up the rhythm and melody of his songs live, one of the things I love most about his shows, and he had a blast twisting and turning the words of his last tune.

Check out more photos from Andrew Bird’s performance at the NPR Showcase:

Post and photos by Eden Weingart