In an era of music where it seems as if anyone is one good (overly-produced, radio-friendly) song away from becoming a Top 40 sensation, fewer and fewer performers can be labeled as truly talented musicians. But when Andrew Bird walked off the Historic Tennessee Theatre's stage Thursday Oct. 4, there was little doubt in anyone's mind that they had just witnessed a genuine and unique talent.
Bird, a classically-trained and Northwestern University-educated violinist, is known for his technical skills, which highlight not only his musical training, but also his impressively innate ear for what constitutes good music.
"The show was awesome," said Ben Smith, senior in graphic design. "I've seen him twice, the first time at Bonnaroo. But this time was so much better. It completely blew me away."
Opening with "Hole in the Ocean Floor," a track from his new album "Break It Yourself," and "Why?," Bird immediately set to work picking, bowing and whistling, all the while keeping those in attendance standing on his every word and refrain.
Listening to Bird is reminiscent of a Phil Spector-esque "Wall of Sound," but unlike many of Spector's creations, in which the music is at times purposely overwhelming to the listener so as to cover any deficiencies of the performer, Bird's wave of noise is different. For him, this cornucopia of sound only stands to illuminate the talent of Bird. His sounds don't overpower the audience, but rather highlight the deftness of his harmonies, layering and constant loop pedaling.
"The thing that stuck out to me the most was that he did almost everything himself. He did have that backing band, but he would go and record a whistle or a riff, then play it on loop and build upon it," Trey Pence, senior in journalism and electronic media, said. "Everything was a grand scheme to a song. It was so methodically thought up."
It was Bird's "methodical" nature that Pence felt was the key to his uniqueness.
"I think Andrew Bird is incredibly unique," Pence said. " ... No one does what he does on his scale."
One such example of his layering technique was his performance of "A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left," which combines looped sections of Bird's violin, guitar and whistling skills, all the while accompanied by a spinning gramophone and attached sock monkey on stage.
Overall, Bird mixed up the distribution of his 21 song set list, with the majority of his time spent playing fan-favorites while also mixing in a healthy dose of his newer releases.
"I was really impressed by the new stuff," Smith said. "'Eyeoneye' was my favorite song off of there... I'm just a big fan of how his new stuff sounds."
For Bird and the audience, Thursday's performance provided an intimate environment, where both the audience and the performer were invested in the show.
"He's got a really great stage presence ... and he just seemed more at home at the Tennessee, where the environment was specific for him and his show," Smith said. "... Everyone was there for him; it was more specific for him and it showed."