Friday, January 29, 2010

Do you wonder where the self resides?

photo // wakingupto

the genius-ness of andrew bird has left me quite contemplative after his gig at the esplanade concert hall on tuesday. going to this concert was really a leap of faith - not knowing the existence of this musical genius before the mosaic marketing bombarded my inbox with emails, thinking that maybe his music would be something i'd like, getting hold of his albums, making the decision "just heck it and buy the tix!", having his songs grow on me as i listen to them at work, and realising that andrew bird is someone you MUST hear live. the studio recordings just doesn't do his songs and the man enough justice.

so late to jump on the wagon, but i'm hooked nonetheless. without music, andrew bird is a somewhat awkward, mumbling, self-deprecating guy who shuffles his feet and avoids eye contact. on stage with the loop pedals, his amazing-sounding violin, guitar and glockenspiel, he's a different man.

andrew (ha we're on a first name basis now, considering how much his music has penetrated my life in so short a time) is the guy who has been playing the violin his whole life. i really admire his ability and talent to take his classical training and venture to a path that is so different from other classically-trained musicians. if you ask me to do something like this with my piano training - i would love to, but the talent just isn't there.

the pizzicato on the violin is amazing. how come no one ever substituted the violin for a ukelele? i'd love to have heard more of the glockenspiel, but when i hear him whistle with the glockenspiel, it sounds totally alike. which brings me to the jaw-dropping ability of his to whistle.

andrew's whistle is nothing like us ordinary folk. his whistling is loud, pitch-perfect, rhythm-perfect, great range and crystal clear. the singing is comparable to his contemporaries (whom i'll mention just a few - jeff buckley, damien rice, the mellow-er styles of jason mraz and rufus wainwright). but the multi-tasking is a sight to see.

from an audience member's point of view, andrew does it all, and he does it so effortlessly. pulling the bow on the violin, singing, hopping to the glockenspiel, stepping on the controls of the loop pedals, picking up the guitar, throwing the guitar behind his back and plucking the violin. this myriad of his tasks on stage is executed to (almost) perfection. but i can imagine it takes lots of concentration and focus to be able to pull all that off. remembering the songs, each refrain to be looped, playing them in the correct order, playing them in the correct rhythm.

it's astounding to me, and i spent the entire concert mesmerized and in awe of the music that is resonating through the halls of esplanade. very glad that the concert was held here. i've attested to the awesome acoustics of the concert hall before, and that only the best of the best musicians can sound good in this hall. true enough, andrew bird sounded brilliant for the entire 100+ minute set.

Andrew Bird - live in singapore
mosaic series by esplanade presents
26 january 2010

Happy Birthday Song
Sweet matter (Dark matter/sweetbreads)
A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left
Natural Disaster
Oh No
Carrion Suite
Section 8 City
Capital I (inspired by Sesame Street)
Scythian Empires


Oh, Sister (Bob Dylan cover)
Some of These Days I'll Be Gone (Charley Patton cover)

the setlist is a good mix of songs. and i particularly enjoyed my favorites from noble beast - natural disaster and oh no. i also loved capital i, dark matter/sweet matter, why? and imitosis (yes the bio geek in me really loves this song). i was particularly captivated with dark/sweet matter (2 versions of the song), and the thought of where the soul/self resides. is it our DNA? our brain (which has white and grey matter, not dark matter)? our heart (which is red)?

but more than that, it was a delight hearing andrew mumble through some banter, including his thoughts on some of his songs. i love to hear songwriters talk about their songs during gigs. andrew is truly a gifted songwriter and musician. his creativity and innovation, so evident as he forms melodies and harmonies that loops through each stanza and chorus, adding a minor tone, embellishing it with different tonalities and sounds. the out-of-the-box use of the violin like a ukelele, the strange mix of instruments, and electronic technology has pushed the boundaries of music, and at the same time, challenged my perspectives of what beautiful music can sound like, rather than what music ought to sound like.

and andrew's songs, to me, are all his thoughts. about the people around him, the gut-wrenching emotions, the social commentary, the philosophy and existentialism, the sights and sounds. his music and lyrics surround him each and every day, and they are one and the same. and i think he becomes so wrapped up in his own music and thoughts, that when he's alone with the music, that's when he's free.