Written by James Dillon
Mar 21, 2009 at 08:00 PM
ImageSpring break in Houston typically means a mass exodus of college students heading to Austin to be overwhelmed with music during South By South West. This year I decided to stay in our fair city, spend time with some good friends visiting from out of town, and catch a couple shows that I had been dying to see for quite some time now. The first show I was lucky enough to see was Elton John and Billy Joel at Toyota center on Thursday (which was absolutely amazing) and Andrew Bird with Heartless Bastards on Saturday at House of Blues. Not a bad way to spend a  spring break in Houston.

After seeing the insane spectacle (and possibly drinking too much) at Toyota Center only Thursday night, Andrew Bird on Saturday was much lower key event, but still impressed me more than I thought it would. That is saying a lot because I was expecting to be completely blown away by Andrew Bird.

House of Blues, as I’ve said before has its downsides, but as far as sound and lighting goes, it tends to be top notch. So in spite of not being able to afford drinks during the show, the venue wasn’t a terrible choice for the evening’s festivities.

I made my way into the venue just as Heartless Bastards were starting their set. I had heard quite a bit about this band, but hadn’t managed to hear them. So going to the set with a clean slate I was initially unimpressed, but that changed. The group plays classic rock style music, with the singer singing in a gruff, raspy voice. Anytime the songs would start to sound like generic classic rock, steel guitar would be added, or the song would take an interesting twist to keep the song from getting boring. After seeing them, I wouldn’t consider myself a fan, but I understand why a lot of journalists seem to be raving about this group.

I am not sure where to begin with trying to explain how amazing Andrew Bird is live. I feel as if words are irrelevant and will just simply seem like hyperbole. The man is a musical genius, and has an understanding of pitch and key far greater than anyone I have seen in a long time. Whistling and playing glockenspiel perfectly in key, singing while playing violin, and brilliant guitar work are all in a day’s work for Andrew Bird. In addition to being able to play music like a mad man, he writes absolutely wonderful songs. Since going solo a few years ago, he hasn’t released a bad album. While his latest album “Noble Beast” is not his best work, the songs were fantastic to hear live.

In addition to the new songs, older gems were worked in to the set. Personal favorites included “Opposite Day”, “Plasticities”, and “Fake Palindromes”.  These songs were met with great approval by the diverse croud Bird was able to draw. The venue errupted with applause nearly everytime the man whistled (which made me really irritated with the bros in front of me).

After a perfect set of great songs and catchy whistling the night was sadly ended. Personally, I could have listened to him for quite a while longer, but I can’t always get what I want. Leaving the venue was interesting, as Amanda Palmer’s show was ending at the same time, and I saw tons of people in costumes, and a drunk 17 year old guy in a dress passed out leaning up against the wall.