Celebrate Brooklyn! at Prospect Park Bandshell
Friday, June 10
Better than: Being at a show in a stuffy room somewhere.
Outdoor shows are always a risk. The weather can be a temperamental thing—something that many people in New York received a soggy lesson in last week—and the setting can sometimes swallow the music whole, rendering a concert into a picnic with live-music accompaniment. The violinist/whistler/etc. Andrew Bird’s music can, at times, seem delicate enough that the latter could be seen as something of a concern, but on Friday night at the Prospect Park Bandshell it soared above the crowd. (Pardon the pun.)
“I love playing outside in the summertime,” Bird said at one point, and the admiration was mutual, with the audience eating up everything he had to offer in between sips of water and wine. Of course, that was in large part due to the strength of Bird’s songs, which bend and twist under the leadership of his resonant tenor and are full of double-take-worthy moments. The new track “Give It Away,” for example, shifted back and forth between a shaggy-dog shuffle and pizzicato-led breakdowns that sounded downright proggy. That these two seemingly disparate elements hung together as well as they did was a testament to his compositional power. (The headbanging he did on the breakdowns helped a little bit, too.)
And his musicianship holds up to the standards his songs put forth; his voice plays with syllables similar to the way musicians treat the written notes in a cadenza, while the fluidity with which he shifts instruments—from violin on the neck to violin in front of him like it’s a fancy banjo to whistling into the mic to picking up a guitar and shifting into troubadour mode with a slight detour toward the glockenspiel—is both a sight to behold and pretty much inaudible. His bandmates were no slouch, either, shifting modes easily in an effort to back up their leader on all fronts.
You get the feeling that Bird approaches music in the same way that a biology student might disassemble a skeleton in order to figure out exactly how each joint and bone connect to and work with each other; there’s a meticulousness to his craft that never seems fussy because it instead seems like the work of someone who just wants to make things be the best they possibly can.
Critical bias: I started playing violin in third grade, but I haven’t picked mine up in a long time. That’s perhaps a mistake.
Overheard: “This is the second night this week I’ve seen David Byrne without meaning to.”
Random notebook dump: I attended the Celebrate Brooklyn! opening gala before the show, and in between the speeches from the likes of Marty Markowitz and a rep from JetBlue I wondered what would happen if I had approached Stacy “What Not To Wear” London and asked her if I could be considered for inclusion on her program. Nothing good, probably. Also, the deconstructed salade Niçoise was the best possible way to present that particular staple to an avowed egg-hater like myself.