Live Review: Andrew Bird @ Enmore Theatre

13 March 2023 | 12:32 pm | Shaun Colnan

“Thank you for being a friend."

Pic by Alec Basse

Pic by Alec Basse

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Is it shyness or eccentricity or maybe the spotlights which keep Andrew Bird from opening his eyes? He saunters about the stage, whistling while he works at his trade. He is dextrous in his violin arrangements, lofty in his lyricism, and endearing in his sparing banter.

“Not bad,” he says to cheers and giggles after a florid melange of violin, bass and percussion. “You’re staying right here, Andrew Bird!” screams an enthused audience member. The stalker-esque sentiment was in some senses warranted. After all, it has been six years since Bird has sung his song Down Under.

Accompanying him, an Aussie line-up: the infectiously cool Anna Butterss and Abe Rounds, both with local connections - “Abe went to school around the corner at Newtown Performing Arts and Anna was born in Newtown… but grew up in Adelaide.” - both based now in Los Angeles.

The trio had a synchronicity that allowed for the flourishing of Bird’s intelligent songwriting and the captivating melodies delivered by violin, whistle or guitar - or a combination of all three. This alchemy was exemplified in tracks like the opening one: Make A Picture, taken from his 2022 album, Inside Problems, with Bird looping violin tracks to create an intricate sonic tapestry.

Other new tracks like Lone Didion and The Night Before Your Birthday revealed meditations on life and death told through the guise of astute and poignant personal anecdotes. Crowd favourites like Sisyphus and Pulaski At Night led to group singalongs in the choruses, even including former bandmate and opener Tift Merritt on guitar and vocals. 

“Thank you for being a friend,” Bird said late in the set and the sentiment was met with a harmonious retort. It was a weird and wonderful set that even stepped back in time, as Bird said, “Now for the old-timey section” which saw Butterss harnessing double bass and Rounds taking to the acoustic guitar.

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Earlier, Tift Merritt took to the stage pouring her heart out with sombre and tender undulations, playing some of her own tracks like the celebration of solitude, Travelling Alone, and nods to lyrical powerhouses, Bobbie Gentry and Cindy Walker with Mississippi Delta and You Don’t Know Me, respectively.