At the start of the show on Friday night, Andrew Bird was on stage alone, showing off just how skilled of a violinist he is. With his layered loops he was able to create the sound of a full string section, allowing him to fill the room with a rich and powerful sound. Bird’s presence and command of the space was only accentuated by the fact that he was performing at the Largo, a small seated venue with a capacity of only 280. At Largo there are no lights that spill onto the audience so eyes are directed solely at the stage, and the venue has a strict no electronics policy, eliminating the distracting glow and noises of cameras, tweets and texts.
As Bird looked into the darkness of the crowd, he noted how he couldn’t see anyone, but he knew they were there because he had heard people laughing at opener Demetri Martin. For his third song, Bird played “Action/Adventure,” saying that the last time he’d played at the Largo, he decided to do the song without having practiced. He had messed up the lyrics and heard a girl in the front row say, “This used to be my favorite song.” He redeemed himself on Friday by playing it perfectly, after which he brought out musicians Jeremy Ylvisaker and Alan Hampton to accompany him for the rest of the show.
Bird played a mix of old and new tracks, but a real treat came toward the end of his first act when he played a new song he has been writing, titled “Pulaski.” While living in Chicago, Bird’s friend had an exchange student who would say, “I want to see Pulaski at night!” in what Bird portrayed as a thick French accent. “Now if you don’t know, Pulaski is a street on the west side of Chicago that goes all the way from the North to the South side,” explained Bird. “Pulaski is not pretty at all!”
The second act had a similarly reflective tone. Before singing “Something Biblical,” Bird talked about how the song came from his father talking to him about dry counties while being on a farm in Iowa. Bird would always picture the towns without water versus without booze. He also played another new composition, a theme to a children’s TV show he’s apparently writing about Professor Socks, his fox friend, and Marian, the beautiful librarian.
At the end of the second act the audience applauded, hoping for an encore, but the house lights and music came up quickly, swiftly stamping out the hopes of Bird’s return to the stage.