Erin Wolf

Andrew Bird/Apostle of Hustle @ Alverno’s Pitman Theatre, April 21

By - Apr 24th, 2007 02:52 pm
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Announcing that the audience at Alverno’s Pitman Theatre was about to experience the venue’s only ‘rock’ show of the season, opening act Apostle of Hustle began their set. It was filled with punchy banter from front man Andrew Whiteman, flippant statements on politics, co-eds and drug culture and lots of new material from their latest release National Anthem of Nowhere. The set swapped southwestern indie rock sounds with indie pop rock, pleasing fans, intriguing first-time listeners and warming the crowd well for the headliner.

Chicagoan Andrew Bird (whose music is based on the excellent combination of big sounds and big words) returned to Milwaukee for his first ‘big-venue’ appearance at the Pitman Theatre (his previous Milwaukee shows have been at the former Gil’s Café and the Miramar Theatre). And while Whiteman may have dubbed the evening a “rock show,” true-blue Bird fans knew they were in for much more than that.

Armed with his latest collection of songs from Armchair Apocrypha, his two touring pals Martin Dosh (drums, keys) and Jeremy Ylvisaker (guitar, bass) from Minneapolis and two of the coolest amps ever created by Chicago luthier Ian Schneller – a single horn shaped like a gramophone and a double-spinning-horn amp called a “Janus Horn”– Bird and company created a stunning mini-orchestra.

Bird hushed the audience with his whimsical croon, sparkling, world-famous whistle and glockenspiel combination, and his amazing ability to layer guitar and violin via a sampler. Bird even shook off his shoes, giving himself easier toe-push access to the buttons on his sampler, arranging a base of guitar, then plucked up his violin, setting his Janus amp a-spinning to bow his way through renditions of “Fiery Crash” and “Imitosis.” He later took it solo with “Masterfade” (the audience helping him along with his brain-farted lyrics) and “Dr. Stringz,” dedicated to his nieces and from his television appearance on kids TV network Noggin.

Bird pulled the show together by weaving in stories about his travels in France and how they were the partial inspiration for his new material. “Plasticities,” he said, is a song born from a breakfast of oatmeal and accompanied by four looped songs in a topsy-turvy French hotel, while an attempted car-parking in Bordeaux before a show gave us “Heretics.”

Storytime ended and Bird finished up the set with material from The Mysterious Production of Eggs (“Skin Is, My” and “Tables and Chairs” ) and “Scythian Empires” from Armchair. The audience, picture-perfect up until now, politely hushed during songs and wildly cheering in-between, couldn’t resist any longer as a few made their way down the aisle, dancing and twirling to Bird’s literary indie symphony. VS

To view more images from the show, click HERE.

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