Andrew Bird gets cozy at St. Mark's Cathedral

Categories: Concert Review
Photos by Stacy Schwartz
When Andrew Bird announced that he was going to perform a "Gezelligheid" concert series at St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral, the obvious question was "What the hell is a "Gezelligheid?" It has nothing to do with the large phonograph sculptures that Bird uses for amplification or with violins, but is a Dutch concept that roughly equates to "coziness" (patrons of Mario Keller's restaurant and bar Gasthof Zur Gemutlichkeit will recognize the German equivalent of the word).  With it's high gothic vaulted ceiling and gray stone, St. Mark's may not immediately fit the bill for "cozy," but the sold out crowd who braved the cold to stand in line for the third and final concert certainly appreciated the immediacy the reverential space offered.

Bird had bashed his heel on the first night of the concert series, which made it difficult for him to stand (he had played the second night of the engagement mostly seated), but he seemed determined to stay on his feet through most of the final night. He took up position front and center of the sanctuary and opened with "Sovay/Wedding March," a violin variation from his 2004 Sovay release, but he quickly moved to more madcap experiments. Surrounded by a number of samplers, sequencers, microphones, a guitar, and a xylophone, he lurched around to the various parts of his gear, heightening the sense of a man on a desperate quest to make things fit around him. With the lighting shooting up the back apse of the church shifting from blood reds to deep purples and cut by the stained glass windows, there was a committed seriousness to the performance that was intimate beyond social coziness.

Photos by Stacy Schwartz
One of the highlights of the solo opening was "Baltimore," which, in Bird's words, is "a new melody I've been working on. It has lyrics but they aren't ready yet, it just has a George Harrison Christmas special feel, so it's coincidentally seasonal." The melody was akin to "You Love Me" from How It Ends by DeVotchKa, a picaresque violin that Bird bowed, plucked, and whistled backed by a progression of looped hums, clicks, and wails and accentuated with the xylophone. Behind Bird (and next to a large, incongruous sock monkey) was a double-headed phonograph tube that spun past microphones to create an echoing amplification that was haunting and called to mind air-raid sirens, adding to the epic proportions of sound that the one man was making.

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