It was a cool Saturday night at the Rockland Trust Bank Pavillion. Southern folk-rock bands Calexico and Iron and Wine opened, performing songs from their recent joint album, “Years to Burn,” with multiple guitar changes, a cowboy hat, and an artfully-lit glass of wine. Their performance set the tone for the main act, singer-songwriter Andrew Bird — a classically-trained violinist who combines influences from folk, jazz, and blues to develop an eclectic indie sound.
The lights came up, revealing a projection of Bird’s shadow cast across a cartoon-style, free-standing prop door toward the back of the stage. Bird made his entrance through the prop door to swelling instrumentals, dressed in a white suit jacket and black skinny jeans, violin in hand. He bounded up to the center mic and launched into whistling the intro to “Sisyphus,” the first track off his twelfth album, “My Finest Work Yet,” released this past March.
Bird proceeded to play the first half of the album with expansive energy, singing close into the mic and rising on his toes as if pulled upward by the music. He navigated his violin with the easy hands of an expert, alternately strumming, plucking, and bowing with such force that stray strands dangled from the bow. For some songs, he set the violin aside in favor of an acoustic-electric guitar.
Bird’s live performance showcased the technical elements of his music. Using looping and effect pedals — and, occasionally, an additional mic — Bird layered wave upon wave of whistling, singing, and instrumentals.
After the first half of “My Finest Work Yet,” Bird took a break from the new album to play two songs off his 2016 album “Are You Serious,” including “Roma Fade,” one of his most popular songs.
After plunging into the second half of “My Finest Work Yet,” Bird paused to introduce his song[ “Manifest,” speaking to the environmentalist thread of the album. “This song is appropriate for the last week of the climate strike,” Bird said. “I once heard a guy trying to explain — he was a bit high, I think — he was saying that oil is the blood of the earth. I don’t know if the earth is a living thing, but it’s a miracle that it all hangs together, and we should do our best not to fuck it up.”
Following “Bellevue Bridge Club,” the final song of the new album, Bird gathered around a single mic at the front of the stage with Madison Cunningham (guitarist and vocalist) and Allan Hampton (bassist and vocalist) for a small set of songs with a more intimate folk sound. After the three-part harmonies of “Give It Away,” Bird said “Now we’re gonna play a little duet, Madison and I,” launching into the opening line of “Left-Handed Kisses” to a roaring round of applause. Bird and Cunningham sang their alternate parts, joining together for the chorus. Audience cheering filled the brief spaces between lines.
Nearing the end of the set, Bird stepped back and Cunningham took center stage to perform her song “Something to Believe In.” She stood before the mic without her guitar, pouring all her energy into piercing vocals that filled the pavillion, as Bird and the rest of the band played background instrumentals.
Bird closed the set with “Capsized,” shaking and bobbing his head to the disco-rock beat. He and his band exited the stage, leaving the crowd cheering and waiting, anticipating more to come. It wasn’t long before Bird came back out for the encore, joking that the show wouldn’t be complete without a song from his 2005 album, “The Mysterious Production of Eggs.” The roar from the crowd confirmed his intuition. Bird and his band then played “Tables and Chairs,” ending the night with the environmentalist message of earlier, packaged in a satirical song with the steady, feel-good beat of a closer.
— Staff Writer Marie A. Ungar can be reached at email@example.com.