LOS ANGELES, CA- With a seating capacity of 130, Largo at The Coronet is a modest and time-worn venue with portrait-lined walls of famous comedians and brown and beige theater seats that could fill a high school auditorium in the 1970s. It’s my first time here and I tell the doorman I want a seat in the back of the room, so the dim glow of my phone bothers the least amount of people while I write this article about Andrew Bird. It was all for not, because the ushers at Largo are serious and they do not allow any cell phones to be in anyone’s hands at any time. I instantly fall in love with the venue.

The lights dim and without notice, the eclectic and diverse actor John C. Reilly [Step Brothers, The Aviator] walks out on stage to introduce Bird and a smile stretches across my face. This is one of those Los Angeles moments when I intend to experience one thing and suddenly, something surprising happens that sets the stage for a fantastic evening.

Apparently, John C. Reilly and Andrew Bird are close friends and they perform together. It’s something I didn’t know and I wonder what else I’m in store for.

Bird and his band take the stage – framed in velvet curtains with naked Edison bulbs hanging above – and they dive into Bird’s 10th studio album, My Finest Work Yet.

I’m instantly blown away by Bird’s mastery of whistling. I mean, I wish I could whistle that well. There are probably birds that wish they could whistle that well. Opening with his song “Sisyphus,” the deceitful king forever punished by having to push a boulder up a hill only to see it roll down the other side over and over again, the lyrics dance between rich and complex to playful and simple.

“I’d rather fail like a mortal than flail like a god on a lighting rod” is eventually followed by some improvisational “Na-na-nas”. The words are almost biblical, or at least mythological, and then suddenly childish and frisky.

Andrew Bird. Photo courtesy of Sacks & Co. used with permission.
Andrew Bird. Photo courtesy of Sacks & Co. used with permission.

Bird and company continue on to play the unreleased album in its entirety, which is a delight, but the kicker is at intermission when John C. Reilly returns to the stage and he and Bird perform a soulful, acoustic, and improvised rendition of “This Land Is Your Land” by Woody Guthrie and man, do they do it justice. It’s meandering, solemn, and harmonic. Reilly also spends quite a while interviewing Bird resulting in laughs and awkward pauses that has become the staple of Reilly’s comedy. When discussing his acting career, Reilly jokes, “I wrote a love letter to Hollywood, and Hollywood hasn’t read it.” I’m not exactly sure what he means, with such a successful career under his belt, but his philosophical meanderings still make me laugh.

Bird eventually talks about how he spent 3 years in near isolation in a barn outside of Chicago writing and recording music. “I should have brought more records,” he says. All he had was the clothes in his suitcase and his desire to craft personal and often agonizing music that one probably couldn’t develop in the same way outside of a barn. That dedication and introspective journey into his sound is so clear and forthright in tonight’s performance.

Andrew Bird @ Largo 3/7/19. Setlist.
Andrew Bird @ Largo 3/7/19. Setlist.

From his well crafted and deeply personal tracks “Bloodless” to “Proxy War” to “Bellvue Bridge Club”, Bird has composed indelible alt-country / indie rock / folksy blues that permeates with poetry, sadness, and plenty of questions about love, loss, ghosts, and the inner workings of the human heart.

His mastery of both guitar and violin, plus his serene voice and melodic whistling is endearing, charismatic, and warm. His sound almost instantly makes me feel at home.

My Finest Work Yet is a requiem somewhere between sublime, solemn, and undeniably committed and disciplined. For it is Bird’s commitment to a very specific sound and his exploration of his own inner workings through very figurative language and flowing prose that makes him an immediate and unique voice in an often cluttered landscape of music that lacks clear identity.

Bird knows who he is, what his music is, and how his personal stories are made universal in his writing and performance. It is a night I will not forget anytime soon.

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Andrew Bird. "My Finest Work Yet" Album Cover.
Andrew Bird. “My Finest Work Yet” Album Cover.