Live Reviews - Reviews

Andrew Bird w/ Beating Heart Pigeons @ Vicar Street, Dublin


It’s been far too long since Andrew Bird last graced our shores with his violin-led quirky take on indie folk but after a triumphant night in Vicar Street, it feels like he never left at all.

Before Bird takes to the stage, procedures are kicked off by Limerick natives, Bleeding Heart Pigeons. The four-piece aren’t an obvious match for the whimsical sounds of the headliner and their raw indie rock is mostly lost on the small crowd who’ve wandered in early. Despite sound issues, they reel out a good enough set filled with cuts from their recent debut album, Is. It’s hard to fight the feeling, however, that if they wore their 90s influences a little less on their sleeves and stayed away from the somewhat self- indulgent guitar histrionics, they’d be more of a force to be reckoned with.

Forging your own unique sound has never been an issue for the headliner of the night. 13 studio albums and countless side releases in and Andrew Bird is still finding new ways to re-package his heavily folk influenced, ‘whistles and bells’ brand of indie rock. His recent full-length, Are You Serious, has been the most radical change for a while but, as is proven tonight, it was a step in the right direction. The pop sensibilities and his new found confessional style puts a spring in the Illiinois native’s step and, remarkably for the first night on a new tour, it’s the new songs that play the best, showing just how relevant Bird is today than ever before.

With a set heavily featuring tracks from his new release, Bird reels out a highly professional but exceptionally fun set. New cuts such as ‘Capsized’, ‘Puma’ and ‘Left Handed Kisses’ are absolutely brought to life on stage and are fit for venues far bigger than those that Bird finds himself in. The new pop leaning, rock vibe is a far cry from the tenderness of 2012’s Break It Yourself or Hands Of Glory, but it suits him. That’s not to say Bird has abandoned his old roots with a beautiful, extended performance of ‘Three White Horses’ making an appearance and ‘Pulaski’ also being trotted out. A particularly cosy moment comes from Bird initiating a campfire-esque acoustic singalong for fan favourites including ‘Giant Of Illinois’. It’s yet another feature of a set that feels like a real fan experience rather than just another stop on a tour.

As is rare in a genre of floor gazing, sensitive types, Bird is the ultimate showman. He grins his way  through the two hours on stage, stopping only to quip and make jokes. Far more than just cheesy stagnant in-between song statements like you get from so many acts, Bird makes the audience feel like they’re a part of something and never takes himself too seriously. From his jokey performance of ‘Left Handed Kisses’ (moving from side to side of the microphone to evoke his studio recording duet partner, Fiona Apple) to his conversational approach to singing, he is constantly entertaining. Even when he accidentally drops his bow, he garners cheers from an audience that have fallen into the palm of his hand from the first light anecdote. It’s a refreshing change from indie musicians who take themselves too seriously and it really seems like Bird loves what he does, even after all these years. Kelly Doherty