Andrew Bird + Here We Go Magic at Georgia Theatre – 10/6
My feelings towards Athens are no secret, as a devout Georgia Tech fan (don’t judge me) it takes some real convincing to get me to make that drive up US-129 this time of year. Andrew Bird though, yeah, talked me into it.
I arrived just as Here We Go Magic was settling into the chorus of their first song. What I heard was alright, some catchy stuff that can get your toes tapping, but to be honest I found myself much more interested in exploring. It was my first time at the Georgia Theatre and although I had heard good things the “Tabernacle meets Variety Playhouse” description does not do it justice. The place is absolutely stunning. I was struck by simple things like the classic red curtains, the stunning acoustics, and the fans (those gigantic fans). Moving upstairs through an art gallery where I registered to vote to the coolest balcony area I have ever seen it just kept getting better until — “good goodness, there’s a stone bar on the roof and its 71 degrees outside- this has to be my new favorite venue in the state.” To sum it up, I’m now looking for any excuse at all to go see another show there. (Here’s looking at you Punch Brothers and Lera Lynn). After enjoying a few beverages on the roof, looking over downtown Athens and deciding the place wasn’t so bad, I made my way back downstairs and found a nice spot stage left– perfect view.
Andrew Bird emerged on stage alone with only his violin and a loop pedal. A mere 45 seconds later the entire theatre was filled with intricate harmonies and the hum of his signature Spinning Double Horn Speaker. With every layer the lump in my throat grew larger and larger. It is the kind of music that washes over you like a warm bath after a long day, that makes you have to close your eyes to keep you from crying in public. As he removed his violin from his shoulder I knew what was coming next, everyone knew, but I’m not sure anyone was ready. That whistle, that bone chilling Andrew Bird whistle turned off the gravity and lifted the entire place off the ground.
He continued to play alone on stage for another 20 minutes, floating through heavily improvised versions of old favorites such as “Why?” from his album The Swimming Hour while the crowd cheered on like schoolgirls watching Magic Mike. As two new guys and the same ol’ drummer joined him on stage, the four together only continued what Mr. Bird had already started. Together they moved from one melody to the next, improvising, meshing songs together, remaining in perfect unison from the full sound of their latest single, “Eyeoneye” to all playing “Old Timey” music into a single condenser mic.
It was somewhere in the middle of all this that I realized I was not at an ordinary show. At an ordinary concert you stand and listen or dance around while a band plays songs just like you expect to hear them, just as they had been recorded. Andrew Bird ditches this norm and instead shows an extraordinary level of musicianship by taking his well-known songs and twisting them into unique performances. He takes the time and effort to make each show a personal experience with every note just as genuine as the next. It was altogether an experience that left me, as well as thousands of other, walking out of the theater that night with a big foolish smile on my face and feeling completely satisfied as I made the drive back down US-129.
So if you like to smile and you like music I recommend that you go see Andrew Bird. Also while you’re at it, be sure to check out his album, Hands of Glory that’s set to be released Oct. 30th.
– Ben Eady