Violinist Andrew Bird led an absorbing program of chamber pop at The Anthem recently in support of My Finest Work Yet, his 12th studio album.
Andrew released My Finest Work Yet earlier this year via Loma Vista, and he set to tour it with a band of four other players on guitar, bass, drums, and keyboards. In performance at The Anthem on Sept. 14, Andrew was poised and at peace, and he demonstrated a remarkably tuneful whistle.
Andrew opened the show by getting immediately into My Finest Work Yet with “Sisyphus,” the second single from the record. He explained upon the album’s release that he was tackling political issues with the 10 new songs, but “Sisyphus” deals with an age-old thought that you are defined by your opponents.
“I’m interested in the idea that our enemies are what make us whole — there’s an intimacy one shares with their opponent when locked in such a struggle. If we were to just walk away would our enemies miss us? How did we get to this point and how can we, through awareness of it, maybe pull ourselves out of this death spiral,” Andrew said at the time.
The song contemplates the idea that you might let go of your own suffering, brought on by something that you don’t necessary have to do. Andrew sang it in the manner of a storyteller, recalling perhaps ’60’s and ’70s folk rockers like Don McLean or Gordon Lightfoot in the way in which he provides a narrator’s perspective to a tale.
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Andrew dedicated about half of his show to My Finest Work Yet and the other half to previous albums, notably Are You Serious, his 10th solo album from 2016. In the other numbers from My Finest Work Yet, Andrew continued to use parable and analogy to make his points. In “Bloodless,” he accuses profiteers making money from geopolitical fears of being engaged in an “uncivil war” with “you and me.” It is a cutting political commentary, but Andrew delivered it with a jazzy smoothness that was more likely to make you smile and hum along than to be offended by the actions of bad actors. Well, it suits Andrew’s wry but gentle sense of humor.
Truth be told, Andrew and his band were a breath of fresh air. His orchestral sensibilities, fine ear, and performance magnetism were on display at The Anthem, and his band match him in their refined sensibilities and musical decorum. Given how full The Anthem was in this seated show, if not quite sold out, it was pleasing to see a large crowd hunger for something more than a stereotypical long-haired rocker making guitar poses. It is little wonder that Andrew’s audience continues to grow.
Andrew remains busy throughout the rest of the year. Catch his full tour itinerary on his website.
Here are some pictures of Andrew Bird and his band performing at The Anthem on Sept. 14, 2019. All photos by Mickey McCarter.