Live review: Andrew Bird, ‘Gezelligheid’ at Riverside Cathedral

In Music by Alex Moore / December 13, 2012

Having never taken acid, I’ve never quite understood what people mean when they say that after taking it normal reality seems two-dimensional and limited. It sounds pretty good though. Normal reality is cool by me—so adding yet another dimension sounds like good fun.

Something along these lines is how I’d describe seeing Andrew Bird at the first of his two Gezelligheid shows in New York this week. It’s something he does every year around this time, inspired by a Dutch tradition—you can read all about Gezelligheid in our recent interview with him here.

Anyway back to the dimensions: I like Andrew Bird a lot—all his albums are great and this year’s gorgeous full-length “Break It Yourself” was a no-brainer for our Best Albums of 2012 list. (His follow-up EP “Hands of Glory” was just as good.) But neither album does justice to what he pulled off live at Riverside Cathedral this week.

First of all you’re watching him in a giant cathedral by the Hudson river with dim candelabras and the smell of incense still hanging in the air, so it’s a pretty special experience. Second, he had a whole bunch of ornate gramophone-looking horns flown in from Chicago to amplify the sound in the most organic way possible—no regular PA speakers here. Third: you may know that Bird is a clasically-trained violinist, but if you’ve never seen him live you can’t imagine the kind of insane, jaw-dropping virtuosity he broke out at this show. With a couple looping pedals and a violin (both bowed and strummed) he created a gigantic, dynamic orchestra of sound, all with his signature melodic lyricism. It was like watching Philip Glass and Paul Simon jam with each other, except smashed into the same person.

It’s as if the show is as much magic performance as music concert. You’ve missed your chance this year, but make a mental note to catch this show next year. It’s one of the best you’ll see anywhere.

Live review: Andrew Bird, 'Gezelligheid' at Riverside Cathedral

Live review: Andrew Bird, 'Gezelligheid' at Riverside Cathedral

Live review: Andrew Bird, 'Gezelligheid' at Riverside Cathedral