Shows at the Vogue always include extensive preamble; the pre-show drinks, the line-up, the seat grab, the hour wait, the random opener and excessive line check, all with an encore finishing at the clock strike of eleven when the union hands go home. However, there is no venue more enjoyable for seeing a great artist with a great view and great sound in a plush chair until the fans rush the stage and obstruct the perfect view.
Laura Marling, songstress from the UK, opened, filling the single spotlight with her low contralto voice. This slight blond in shapeless black showed remarkable dexterity on the guitar, channeling folk singers of old like Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell. The crowd was silent, listening to the songs of varying styles and temperaments and the slight hint of a British vowel at the end of the phrase. Her rich, clear storytelling voice sang song after song in minor key with audience enthralled.
Brightly lit, the stage featured a scattering of instruments with DNA-esque swirl sculptures hanging from the rafters and a double-horned gramophone at the back. Andrew Bird appeared lonesome, a toqued troubadour with his violin. Creating layer upon layer and manipulating each with shoe taps on pedals, Bird filled the theatre with sound all on his own.
His backup band acted as a rhythm section, playing around the edges and drawing on calypso rhythms. These jazz influences lent the tone of steel drums to the plucking of the violin. Swaying like a pixie with half-closed eyes, Bird was captivated by the music, his full concentration on his mastery of layers. Although his banter was slight, the intimate bluegrass set mid-show created a needed change of pace, with bandmates crowded around an old school microphone on acoustic guitar and stand-up bass.
These stripped down soulful tunes, and a cover of the Handsome Family’s “Drunk By Noon,” were the highlights of the show. Showcasing songs off recent and past albums, Bird delighted his fans with his incredible violin chops and mad whistling skills.