Andrew Bird, 1/28/09 Carnegie Hall, New York, NY

Jonathan Kosakow on February 2, 2009

“Sometime in 1977[,] a four-year-old Andrew Bird pick[ed] up his first violin,” or so the story goes according to the playbill biography. On this night, 32 years later, the grand doors of Carnegie Hall welcomed a grown-up version of the young musician to its stage. Humbled, Andrew Bird entered the stage from the wings and picked up his violin to serenade the sold-out hall with his own brand of one-man band (this instrument a vast improvement from the ruler and Cracker Jack box contraption he started with on that fateful day).

After two solo tunes of looped violin, guitar, glockenspiel and whistling, Bird welcomed the rest of his band to the stage; percussion and keyboard extraordinaire Martin Dosh was followed by multi-instrumentalists Jeremy Ylvisaker and Michael Lewis.

The quartet proceeded to rip through a set heavy with tracks off the new album Noble Beast (a title, Bird noted, that should carry a tone as if recited by David Attenborough). The audience had not come to hear a radio hit, though: they sat enraptured by each new tune.

From the twisting and turning “Effigy” to the radio single “Fitz and the Dizzyspells,” Bird and company continuously had fun while remaining in awe of the room which played host to them. They paused more than once to remark on the honor they felt to be performing in the fabled Carnegie Hall. Songs like “Oh No” and “Souverian” filled the space perfectly as each musician alternated instruments – sometimes mid-song – to ensure that Bird’s multi-layered compositions did not miss a note. Bird often hoisted his violin in the air with his guitar hanging from his back as he sang, whistled, and tapped out melodies on his glockenspiel while Dosh’s setup had him surrounded by a full drum kit and Fender Rhodes piano that he played simultaneously throughout the night.

The set-closing “Table and Chairs” preceded every musician’s dream: a standing ovation at New York’s most famed concert hall. Bird returned to the stage alone to perform a comedic “Why?” and then brought on Ylvisaker and Lewis for support on the folky “Some of These Days” from his 1998 album Thrills. An unprecedented second standing ovation brought the entire quartet back to the stage for the crowd-pleasing “Fake Palindromes,” to end the night.

Andrew Bird will continue touring over the next three months with dates throughout the U.S., and will head to Paris for a single date in late April.