Well going to a gig on your own is not the best was to see an act but then again sometimes there is no alternative. This time the lad blew me out and went to Muse instead … but here I was at the Union Chapel in Highbury, possibly one the best venues to see anyone not a straight rock band.
Tonight was the magnificent Andrew Bird, who produced one of the best, if not the best album of the year, Noble Beast.
Support was from Moriarty who were new to me but they put on a great, professional and polished set. Their vocalist has a strong, pure voice ideally suited to the collection of Americana-blues songs. Their harmonica player was outstanding – not always an instrument that I love but when played this well, capable of great things and real emotion. A set all too soon over but with a genuinely warm reception from the crowd.
As the crew cleared the stage it became obvious that Mr Bird would not have the accompanying band that played with him earlier I’m the year in Bristol. And true enough he popped onto the stage as alone as I was, only infinitely more talented.
What you lose in terms of drive and energy from a backing band you make up with, especially in a relatively intimate and acoustically sensitive venue as this, in crystal clarity and an opportunity to see and hear everything that is played.
He is a genuinely virtuoso player – his violin playing is legion, his whistling strong and clear, his guitar playing is up there with the best of them, he has a great and distinctive voice and he can do it all together with the aid of his quick moving stockinged feet around the myriad loop pedals. It is impressive enough that he can manage to do all this but the fact that the result is so brilliant, almost symphonic on ocassions, is nothing short of genius.
The set was made up of some songs unknown to me, some by his own admission a mashup of his own songs (like the mash of Sweetbreads and Dark Matter), some welcome new songs like Lucitania, and of course some old favourites like Natural Disaster that was sublime.
The crowd was strangely subdued, perhaps the influence of the venue, perhaps in some sort of hushed awe, I can’t believe that having sold out two night it was indifference.
Of course having to catch the last train West meant that I had to leave well before the end, but better three quarters of the gig than none.
A remarkable man producing innovative, quality music with depth and resonance, how fortunate to have seen him twice in a year that has had him touring almost continually. I wouldn’t be surprised if he heads off for some peace quiet and R&R; for a while.