Live Review

Andrew Bird, The Barbican, London

Bird’s unique folk-pop sound is as beautiful and heartbreaking as ever.

Tonight, unassuming Chicago multi-instrumentalist Andrew Bird graced the stage of one of London’s grandest venues, the Barbican, for the first date of a short European tour. Very short, in fact. With just four shows lined up (London, Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam), only a handful of people got to hear Bird perform tracks from his newly-released album ‘Break It Yourself’.

Despite this being Bird’s twelfth studio album, it’s clear that the 38-year-old still suffers from opening night nerves, proclaiming after his first number, ‘Desperation Breeds’, that there are likely to be a few technical hitches over the course of the show. But never fear, the only hitch as far as DIY’s ears were concerned was Bird jumping the gun on just one song - eagerly plucking away at his violin strings before his band had struck the opening note. ‘Ironing out the creases,’ says Bird of the first night of a tour.

We’re treated to all fourteen tracks of ‘Break It Yourself’, with a cheeky side-order of ‘Plasticities’ from 2007’s ‘Armchair Apocrypha’. From the gaelic violin jiggery of ‘Danse Carribe’ to the insightfully-titled ‘Near Death Experience Experience’, we’re led through a beautiful set of looped strings, vocals and Bird’s infamous whistling. Picture this set to the backdrop of a double-headed gramophone (which twirls at any pace between mild and violent over the set’s duration), vibrant lighting and Bird’s immaculately-dressed sock monkey, which accompanies the singer for most live performances, and you have the ingredients of a beautifully-crafted show. Bird’s unique folk-pop sound is as beautiful and heartbreaking as ever, with layers of desolation and fragility underpinned by gentle optimism.

Although his new work isn’t as catchy as previous albums (particularly ‘Armchair Apocrypha’), it would be difficult to see fans disappointed by the material, with Bird’s vocals and musical capabilities infinitely more entrancing live as on record.

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