Bird, the multi-instrumentalist and whistling aficionado coming to Reno at the Grand Sierra Resort on Wednesday, learned at an early age to blaze his own musical path as detailed on his official Web site. The Chicago native was known to not only pick up classical music by ear but he also has made his own distinctive sound incorporating gypsy music, jazz, bluegrass, indie rock and folk among other influences.
Though he has mastered several other instruments, including the guitar, mandolin and glockenspiel, Bird still returns to the violin every time, wowing audiences with his ability to take such a classical instrument and incorporate it into mainstream songwriting.
Best known for his live performances, about which he has reportedly said, "Every night I am rewriting all my songs for the audience," Bird uses stomp boxes, which record and repeat different refrains of music, allowing him to play all his instruments with time to even whistle a chilling tune.
It is these loops of repeating music that make Bird's music almost hauntingly shift and shape, taking on a life all its own. Critics at Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone and Pitchfork have issued praise for the unconventional classical artist with audiences agreeing this is an impressive feat for one man who performs with the command of a full orchestra.
Having produced 10 full-length albums, including his latest, "Armchair Apocrypha," released in March 2007 with Fat Possum Records, Bird has earned himself international acclaim. His tours have taken him to music festivals like the Montreal Jazz Festival, Radio France and Lollapolooza with appearances on BBC and the “Late Show with David Letterman.”
And while no Grammy is in hand yet, Bird won the Plug Independent Music Award for Best Male Vocalist for 2008, coming as no surprise to a man whose voice has been compared to the likes of Thom Yorke of Radiohead and Jeff Buckley.
Despite his growing fame, Bird has remained true to his unique instrumental style, explaining in his blog for the New York Times that during songwriting he is “mostly concerned with shape, tone and texture” of a song, usually drawing from a “single noise like a creaking door or a delivery truck.”
And as such, "Armchair Apocrypha," which literally means "armchair of hidden things," marks some very poignant storytelling. The album includes works like the song "Fiery Crash," sung to fend off airplane crashes, and "Scythian Empire," which is about lost civilizations.
It is this very ability to mix playfulness with painstaking care for the integrity of music that sets Bird apart from today's performers or, as one reviewer from London's Independent remarked, "Bird can do for independent American music what Tarantino did for American cinema."
Perhaps about to change the music scene or perhaps just the man who started with a Cracker Jack box, either way Bird is a musical anomaly.
Bird will perform at the Grand Sierra Resort Theater on Wednesday at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $25 and can be purchased at the Grand Sierra box office or online at www.grandsierraresort.com.
For more information about Andrew Bird, visit his official Web site at www.andrewbird.net.