happy day

Yesterday I finished my previous post, about seeing Andrew Bird at the Sydney Opera House, then looked on youtube for a good-quality video from the show to illustrate. There was just one fan video with poor sound. (You can’t hear the whistling — what’s the point?)

But since I had searched for “andrew bird sydney,” I discovered these two pieces, produced by a local crew called Shoot The Player here two years ago. They’re live performances shot on the fly in public at Mrs. McQuarrie’s Chair, the famous outlook on Sydney Harbour at the Botanical Gardens.

They really capture what’s great about Andrew Bird. His unique sound is often accomplished with electronics, which is the thing that hooked me in the first place, but his reference points in folk and blues and country are old as anything. It’s my kind of musician who uses new technology and experimental forms, but is not limited by them, and could just pick up and play and sing anywhere.

“Plasticities,” the first clip here, is a great mix of these factors with its off-the-cuff troubador manner belying the eerie, droning post-folk sound. It’s strange and cool to hear this on a sunny day in the park. He makes his violin sound like an electronic instrument. The performance also highlights his whistling. (Listening to it I wonder if I was wrong about him whistling on an intake of breath. Anyone happen to know?)

The second piece is more pure; it sounds like an old gospel standard. It’s just all about a guy playing a fiddle in a park, a song about happiness tinged with the blues, gospel yearning. And Bird seems like such a friendly guy; it looks like he’s glad to be out here. Love how he waves at the boat at the end of “Plasticities.”

These videos could not go better with the mood of my piece about him, and my overall mood about migrating here. The Bridge and the Opera House are here. The sun, the sky, the sandstone. The latent happiness of summer. But also something deeper, more haunting, a little harder to put into words if you’re not Andrew Bird.

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