Amongst the fragile calm behind the hill in Montmartre, a paunchy guy in his fifties, in the process of showing his friends a view of Paris from on high, turns his head, drops his arms, and ceases to move. Andrew Bird comes along singing “Spare-Ohs”, and the three guys stand still and calmly attentive about ten feet behind this pleasant surprise. They’ll continue to stand stone-still until he turns his back to them, allowing them to step out of the frame. A couple of minutes later–after Andrew Bird quiets down, leaving just the sound of twittering sparrows–they begin to applaud. The three kids on the bench don’t say a word. Everything is calm as the sun goes down.
We’ve seen bands excite young girls, leave onlookers indifferent, embarrass concierges, and rile up crowds. Andrew Bird put the city on pause. His timidity and lightness didn’t make us wait long. It just took a few slides on the violin for him to latch onto the décor, redesign the contours of the space, change time, and sweep into another atmosphere. Andrew Bird passed through the vineyards and we forgot about Paris. Andrew Bird walked down the street and the parked cars seemed not to belong. Andrew Bird passed by clusters of tourists, and it was they who appeared anachronistic. They’re the ones that are walking backwards, right?
Andrew Bird’s songs are small Chinese treasure boxes and little Spanish dressers. Elaborately decorated, embellished with art, rich with a multitude of hidden drawers, and filled with tiny, unexpected boxes and surprises, his songs glide on with episodic advancements. In movements.
The song “Weather Systems” from his first solo album unfolded into three moments and brought the Take Away Show to life. The opening fell into place with a miming hobble through the vineyards. The second movement took shape in the deserted road, and the pizzicato finale found itself moving against the current of tourists. And Bird, turning out to be a sage director, knew perfectly well how to punctuate every Act with a particular face or grimace.
We ended up in Montmartre, as usual, by default, since it’s so close to the venue where Bird was going to play. But the landscape turned out to be a perfect spot. Bird’s music needed something anachronistic, something of both yesterday and today. Thus, it was in this “other time” that his music became most beautiful. Thanks, Andrew.