Written by Alec Goldfarb
“Introspection and ambiguity stand to do little against fascism.”
As Andrew Bird closed his lips and the last syllable of ‘fa-s-cism” escaped them the atmosphere in Canopy Club modulated from a reverent silence to a generational uproar. In that moment, the microcosm of the evening, we saw ourselves reflected in Bird’s artistry: our otherness and angst, our heartbreak and lonely evening walks, and our renewed commitment to speak out against a political regime that threatens our innate human rights.
His momentous saying, already engraved into Champaign-Urbana concert lore, was made all the more poignant by its musical context. Bird’s quip came before an old song that had been revised to be more direct and less ambiguous, and this continued commitment to his own artistry and aesthetic growth was laid bare in the directness and emotionality of his performance. Every lyric he sung was an intimate conversation with you and you alone, and every word he spoke between songs was hauntingly melodious.
As a career musician, very few times in my life have I had the privilege to hear an artist play a song with the urgency, abandon, and organic delivery of Andrew Bird. It was not just the effortlessness with which music flowed from him; it was the uncanny, indescribable feeling that this was the first and last song I would ever hear in my life. As the evocative violin pizzicatos heralded “Plasticities,” the crowd hovered between deafening applause and a suspended quiet, and the opening lyrics “This isn’t your song, this isn’t your music” asked us ineffable questions about the communicative nature of music and the feeling of being alone in a crowd. The appearance of venue lights after an encore oftentimes breaks the spell, but they only served to magnify the crowd’s melody drunkenness; we all left canopy club with a strange cocktail of elation, ennui, ecstasy, and enrapture. Andrew Bird has ensured that his next campus appearance will be sold out, but those who were truly listening understand we will never see Jan. 30th’s Bird again; he will reinvent himself and captivate his audience in a way we never thought possible.