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LIVE REPORT: Andrew Bird
Jeremy Allen , July 8th, 2015 10:22

Jeremy Allen reports from the Philharmonie de Paris

Photo by Kmeron

Andrew Bird might not have a new album out just yet, but like a shark he has to keep moving. If not then he can't keep disseminating important musical information from his giant musical brain. One imagines his cranium is so full of brilliant musical ideas that if he doesn't impart them then it might just explode. He channels them into multifarious instruments: the violin, the xylophone, the guitar and the human voice, often utilising two or three at the same time; the data from his grey matter gets fed through looping pedals and into a Matisse-like giant whirring double-headed gramophone that rotates in the background (which one suspects is more functional than just a madcap stage prop). It's easy to imagine his brain powering the whole stage, in the same way Steve Jobs' brain seemed to be the grid that kept Apple operational for so long, and why things seemed to go so wrong after his untimely demise.

In the last couple of years Bird has released an album of Handsome Family covers, recorded new ambient works for an installation at Boston's Institute of Contemporary Arts (Echolocations: Canyon) and put out Hands Of Glory - an eight track companion piece to 2012's wonderful Break It Yourself. It's been a busy old time, but it still feels awhile since we've really heard anything new - proper!, and tonight at the Philharmonie de Paris, Bird - assisted by a drummer as well as his usual bassist - introduces us to two brand new songs taken from an as-yet-untitled forthcoming album.

'Truth Lies Low' is typically oblique on a first listen, showing you enough to tantalise you, but letting you also know it'll be a labyrinthine chase before you finally get to curl up with the song. The second new track - which may or may not be called 'St Preservus' - is uncharacteristically direct, an astonishingly bold power ballad that circumnavigates the pitfalls lesser mortals such as Coldplay so easily tread haplessly into. To even mention the increasingly artless Coldplay in the same breath as Bird feels insulting, and yet there's something about this song that connects so readily that you begin to wonder if it might even provide a hit. Yes, I'm talking about the charts. Or maybe it's just the 30-degree heat punishing my brain cells.

A rollicking version of 'A Nervous Tic Motion Of The Head To The Left' brings the biggest applause of the evening, sounding remarkably fresh rendered in such punishing fashion. 'Lusitania' loses none of its gorgeousness without Annie Clark to duet with, and 'Danse Caribe' is as whimsical and life-affirming as ever, with his singing bassist and singing drummer pitch perfect with their harmonies, to the point where it's almost too immaculate. This mini-tour of Europe may be a pit stop between promotional tours, but it's clear Bird and the Parisian audience have something of a rapport going on. "Paris was the first place in Europe where people were really getting it a long time ago," he says gratefully towards the conclusion, "so I haven't forgotten you for that." It's unlikely les gens at the Philharmonie will be forgetting this show in a hurry either, even if it feels like a warm up for greater things to come.