Indie rock musical artist Andrew Bird, born and raised in the Chicago area, traveled to Madison on his “Inside Problems 2023” tour earlier this month at the Sylvee. Bird waltzed onto the stage to cheers of excitement from a diverse crowd, bearing his signature violin and a soft smile. Accompanied by both a bass guitarist and his opener Ted Poor, Bird jumped right into a set that wowed the crowd.
Preceding Bird’s entrance, Poor greeted the audience with his unique skills on the drum set. Utilizing timpani mallets, traditional drumsticks and various other auxiliary instruments, Poor pounded his way through the 30 minute opening set. Abstract in style and unconventional in instrumentation, Poor’s beats were received more enthusiastically by some audience members than others. Regardless, there were many head bobs and applause after each song in his opening number.
Following Poor’s set, a 30 minute interval left the audience a bit restless as they stood waiting for the highlight of the night. The atmosphere suddenly changed as Bird took center stage. The crowd cheered enthusiastically as the lights dimmed. A gentle magenta spotlight lit up Bird as he lifted his violin to his chin. The next minutes fluttered by as Bird’s moving shadows drifted across the back of the stage.
When the trance was at length lifted by the ending of the song, a simple glance at the audience showed many content faces. Bird’s fans are best described as easy-going and serene. His music and relaxed demeanor attract a loyal fanbase, evident in the enthusiasm of the audience. Although, some stood stoically, completely immersed in Bird’s beautiful musical skills.
In the wake of his dreamy opening, Bird switched gears to his most famous song, “Sisyphus.” Now carrying an acoustic guitar, he sang passionately and whistled the signature tune of the song to the enthusiastic cheers of the crowd. The concert commenced as such, consisting of captivating lighting work and Bird’s profound disposition.
Bird’s talent is admirable. His comfortability with the violin and guitar is amazing. The way he plays these instruments is itself unique — he plucks the violin like a banjo and beautifies ugly notes. Several times during his show, I got full body shivers. Bird’s lyrics themselves are art. “Sisyphus” draws upon metaphors of Greek gods and appears to express a hopeless spirit:
“I'd rather fail like a mortal than flail like a god, I'm a lightning rod
History forgets the moderates
For those who sit recalcitrant and taciturn
You know I'd rather turn and burn than scale this edifice, yeah.”
Other notable songs from Bird’s set include “Bloodless,” “Eight,” “Three White Horses” and “Pulaski at Night,” his most streamed song on Spotify. Bird draws inspiration from his home of Chicago in many of his song lyrics and instrumental vibes.
The night wrapped up with a double encore and hearty applause from the audience. The crowd buzzed as Bird and his accompanists exited the stage. Many drifted towards the merchandise line. As I collected my bag and readied to leave, I was happily surprised by the continued respectfulness and good nature of the audience. Bird’s fans vary from college students like myself to middle aged couples and parents with their excited kids. His music is versatile in its attractiveness and ability to touch people who travel different paths in life.
Overall, my experience at Bird’s concert at the Sylvee was quite positive. I enjoyed the music, musicians and audience. I would recommend both the Sylvee and Andrew Bird to those interested in the Madison music scene.