The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Like a Bird on a wire


By Lily Goodman

[email protected]

Acclaimed singer/songwriter Andrew Bird has been trained in the Suzuki method for violin since the tender age of 4. But as if that weren’t impressive enough, he also learned to play completely by ear.

“My mom thought I should do it,” he said. “Not many 4-year-olds decide they want to play violin, and when you’re that young, you’re not really excited or jumping up and down about playing it. But my mom wasn’t pushy, and for the first five years or so, it was a lot of fun and games. Then it got more serious, but I’m glad it did.”

It certainly did get more serious; so serious, in fact, that Bird has released nearly 20 solo albums since 1996, with his latest, Are You Serious, released in April 2016. In addition to his ample time in the recording studio, Bird’s worldwide tours have attracted swarms of die-hard fans, as was the case when he kicked off Iowa City’s Mission Creek Festival on Tuesday. And for the majority of those who attended, Bird’s performance at Hancher seemed to to fall nothing short of a deeply moving experience.

Stepping on stage to the rapid applause and cheering, Bird picked up his violin, playing his opening piece solo, and then with his accompanying band, broke out fan favorites “Capsized” and “Roma Fade” from Are You Serious.

The Illinois native sure has a knack for collaboration. But whether his music is showcased through his individual use of numerous instruments or with other musicians, he has a constant and natural talent for creating harmonious compositions, and despite the complexity of the various sounds, they flow seamlessly into one another.

“For the last eight to 10 years, I have been obsessed with the eternal quest to write a great song — a well-crafted song that resonates with large groups of people,” Bird said. “I have a lot of projects that highlight my artistic curiosity, but my ultimate goal is to write a really melodic song, which takes a lot of restraint. I strive for that restraint, though.”

Obviously, Bird’s restraint during the writing process is paying off. His conversational-like lyrics paired with the strings of a violin, a bass and electric guitar, drums, and Bird’s own, well-developed whistling technique can be entrancing. They can leave the audience in an almost euphoric-like state, which is unarguably what happened two nights ago. It seemed that people could not get enough of Bird’s craft, of his sound, and of his performance.

Furthermore, he created the perfect balance between his newer work and his “oldies,” as he referred to them. Weaving between “Pulaski at Night” from his 2013 album, I Want to See Pulaski at Night, “Three White Horses” from Hands of Glory, and “Imitosis” from his 2007 release, Armchair Apocrypha, it’s hard to imagine there was an audience member who left unfulfilled. Bird is a crowd-pleaser — and a natural one at that.

Following an encore of the crowd favorite “Fake Palindromes” from his 2005 album The Mysterious Production of Eggs, Bird thanked his audience, thanked his accompanying musicians, waved goodbye, and exited the stage. But his exit was nothing more than a physical movement, as Bird’s songs and overall astounding performance at this year’s Mission Creek Festival lingered long after the concert had ended.

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