Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Cold Winter Night, A Special Concert

Warning: this is long. But it's my blog and I can do whatever I want, and I wanted to write something more to remember the show rather than "review" it. So there.

My modest iPhone pictures from last night's concert.

Tankboy took me to see Andrew Bird play a special concert last night (an extension of my birthday celebration :)) at Fourth Presbyterian Church (which coincidentally is right across the street from my office and I had never been inside). It was the second of four Gezelligheid concerts--a dutch word loosely translating to “cozy” (ironic since that is the largest venue my boyfriend has seen him in… yes, we are incredibly lucky…).

The show was absolutely beautiful (I will have a hard time using any other word from here on out) musically and visually, the setting and lighting really added another dimension to the performance. Sometimes the entire height of the altar was lit up with color, and others the back was completely dark, essentially disappearing, leaving Bird on a modest looking stage at front. There was no PA, only the 4 huge horn speakers that Bird is known for having on stage, letting the accoustics of the church do the rest. Bird himself was dressed to the nines, wearing a suit for the occasion, and he was seated for the performance--which he pointed out he normally doesnt do (he injured his right heel backing into some equipment at last show in Minneapolis), but it actually added another bit of intimacy to the show. (He also donned a long past 5 o'clock shadow, which along with his wiry frame unfortunately made him look like a little elderly or homeless man when he limped across the stage--eek!)

Watching Andrew Bird play is so entrancing. He is like a scientist of music, mixing a little of this here a little of that there, building orchestras of sound and melodies; you can just picture him alone in the western Illinois barn playing with melodies and instruments and looping all alone in a desolate place for no one to hear but himself. Must be beautiful solace.

This was not a typical concert where an artist would play songs from their new album, or even the most popular songs from their catalog. This was an intimate performance featuring new melodies and the birth of old songs. I only knew about ten percent of the music he played, but it was enthralling to watch/hear development of melodies. I think I may have even liked it better when I didn’t know the songs or the melodies… It's like the first time you see a movie, the first viewing is sometimes better than all subsequent ones.

"Scythian Empires" and "Natural Disaster" were the only two songs that I remember actually knowing before the show. There was a new song near the beginning I enjoyed, which he said had words, but that he wasn't ready to share them with us quite yet. It is so interesting to hear him play a beautiful melody that he says popped up just within the past month--to hear it so seemingly perfect and practiced.

It's also interesting to hear the stories behind the writing of songs, the development and where they began, like another new song, "Lusitania," which was actually an old lyric that started out in "Natural Disaster," but wasn't used. After more research on sunken Naval ships, “I’m the one who sank the Lusitania” became it's own song. He referred to the demise of a romantic relationship when he talked about the meaning, which is the first time I remember ever hearing him refer to personal relationships like that.

Another intesting story came from the "Capital I" song from Sesame Street (“We all live in a capital I…") developed into the song Imitosis after lawyers from the children's program said he couldnt use the lyrics. Bird played the first verse from the alphabet song, then added that he bet that if Jim Henson were still around he would have let him use it. Another bit of fun came in when Before "Scythian Empires" he asked the crowd to provide the percussion by clapping along during the chorus, but then said that if someone said clap along during a song he'd be like "I'm not your monkey." (Really it's his delivery that made it so hilarious).

[Here I will mention one more song that I enjoyed, it had menacing swells and contained lyric “he is a diamond maker.” This guy seems to think it's called "You Woke Me Up." He also has a setlist from one of the Minnesota Gezelligheid concerts which was similar to ours last night.]

The setting of the show, being in a church (a rare concert for us with no booze) felt seasonally appropriate. There were distinct moments when I felt completely relaxed, despite sitting in church pews, suddenly aware of how tense my muscles were in the cold winter air. We even stopped for hot chocolate afterwards. The temperatures outside were bitterly cold though, we ran from building to building even though we were covered from head to toe--any bit of skin that was exposed was bit with pain from the freezing air.

I could tell that Tankboy was upset that my elation from the concert did not carry through our commute home and seeing him sad made me sad! - Damn you Chicago Winter!! (*shakes fist*) - I decided to write for a bit when we got home and I started to feel a little better (I've been feeling more inspired to write the week or so, just need to find make the time and a place in the new house that I like).

So thank you Tankboy, thank you for taking me to the concert (I know that you wouldn't have gone, but you knew that I would love it). It was a nice break in the hubub and chaos and cold of the holiday season to sit in a beautiful scene and watch and listen to beautifully crafted music. I think that sometimes it's just that set-up that makes us appreciate moments like these even more.


Tankboy said...

You're welcome!

And the new kick-ass song he wasn't ready to share lyrics with us yet was "O Baltimore."

Sarah said...

Nice review of the show!

The song called "You Woke Me Up" includes bits of lyrics from "Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burning" and "Jesus Was a Dying Bed Maker", both old spirituals/folk/blues/songs. It does sound a little bit like "diamond maker", though.

Riley said...

Sounds like it was incredibly beautiful. I like this Gezelligheid idea.

Mich said...

Thanks everyone!

Sarah, I like your blog too! Nice that you captured the setlists on there!