Andrew Bird's new 12th album, Break It Yourself, is a brooding grower, not to mention a headphone record of the highest order. On the live stage, though, it's clear that Bird has become a cult superstar of the variety that attracts actual, real, live screaming fans. His music can be subtle and sweet, but Bird's concerts also bring out the fervent, electric energy of his following — which, of course, helps coax out a showmanship that's not readily apparent in Break It Yourself's gentle, multilayered ballads.
Classically trained and once known as a purveyor of old-time hot jazz, Bird is now the picture of indie-pop sophistication, known for employing $10 words and the clearest, most identifiable whistle in the business. (Yes, that's him working as something of a stunt double in last year's Muppets reboot.) Naturally, both came into play when Bird took the Stubb's stage as the headliner of NPR Music's SXSW showcase in Austin, Texas. Though he opened on an atmospheric note, once Bird dug into peppier songs like "Dark Matter" (from Armchair Apocrypha), he found his energy. When the Spinning Horn Speaker behind him created the illusion of Bird as some sort of horned fiddling demon-god, he proved worthy of the menacing visual.
Bird had no easy acts to follow at Stubb's — he came on shortly after the raucous, earth-shaking up-and-comers in the Alabama Shakes, not to mention the insane rampage of Dan Deacon — but his warm, precise pop wore well anyway. Unlike most SXSW performers, who play shows by the handful during the extended weekend, this was Bird's one shot at this year's festival, and he appeared determined to make it count for the sweet, soaring hour he held the stage.
- "Hole in the Ocean Floor"
- "Danse Caribe"
- "Dark Matter"
- "Desperation Breeds ..."
- "Give It Away"
- "Near Death Experience Experience"
- "Orpheo Looks Back"
- "Fatal Shore"
- "Tables and Chairs"
- "Fake Palindromes"
Producers: Amy Schriefer, Robin Hilton; Video by: XI Media; Audio Engineer: Kevin Wait