Andrew Bird Tames Terminal 5 on Friday NightApril 11th, 2016
Andrew Bird – Terminal 5 – April 8, 2016
Typically when Andrew Bird comes to town, he plays an intimate club or the warm environs of a theater or—as he did a few years ago—an actual church. Just the night prior, he performed at the ornate Kings Theatre in Brooklyn. On Friday, however, he was onstage at Terminal 5, a cavernous venue perhaps more suited to a big, lasers-and-smoke dance party than Bird’s subtle indie rock. Quite honestly, it wasn’t clear to me how it would work: Would he be able to command the room and fill it with his unique layers of violins and whistling? Before getting a chance to find out, the already-almost-full room was treated to an excellent set from Boogarins, a four-piece from Brazil that held the audience rapt with their impressive South American psych-prog. Showered in lights of red, purple and mauve, they worked material mostly off last year’s Manual, showing off a heady dynamic range and a propensity for tight jams that had no trouble wining over those in the crowd who cheered the promise of more local gigs in the near future.
Bird and his newish quartet took the stage and after a rafter-filling bit of jazz-noise noodling, opened with “Capsized,” the first track off his just-released LP, Are You Serious?, bassist Alan Hampton and drummer Ted Poor laying into a funky swing, as if to say, “We can do a big dance party, too!” Indeed, from the start, there was no doubt Bird’s sound could fill the room, his chameleonic violin providing eerie atmosphere, highfalutin gravitas and, yes, a healthy dose of groove. Yet just as impressive was his ability to draw in the crowd and turn the room into a gig just as intimate as recent stops at Rough Trade NYC or his cozy gezelligheid shows at Riverside Church.
In the second-song slot, “A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left” did the shrinking magic trick, Bird singing about when “two substances collide” as if describing the multiple size scales at work in the room, dramatic pauses and gestures like he were telling a story in a bar, his ethereal whistling feeling like it were coming from just inches away. As that number ended, the room fell silent, completely his, as Bird spoke some of the few words he would say all night: “Hello, friends!”
The rest of the set rested heavily on the new album, the band really shining on songs like the title track, Bird’s pizzicato notes cycling through the music while Hampton, Poor and Steve Elliot on guitar brought the groove and the oomph. Of course, older songs brought cheers from the attuned crowd. “Three White Horses,” off 2012’s Hands of Glory, was a showcase for his room-shrinking violin as bright white lights provided a heavenly atmosphere. Perhaps the night’s biggest highlight was “Plasticities” as the immense disco ball created a gorgeous spiraling starlight effect, as if everyone in the room were lying in a sleeping bag under the stars together, sharing the secret of the lovely melody. The show ended in bookend fashion, with the final song off the new album, “Bellevue,” a nice bit of no-tricks indie rock with the repeated lyrics of “by any means necessary.” In lieu of going big with the encore, the band brought down the vibe one more click, playing acoustic around one microphone. The encore centered on the stripped-down “Give It Away,” Bird singing, “Let’s try to keep it in the family,” with his bandmates soaked in a single shaft of light, nothing more intimate than that. —A. Stein | @Neddyo
Photos courtesy of Gregg Greenwood | gregggreenwood.com