Andrew Bird has been no stranger to Chicago this year, performing at venues ranging from cavernous to cozy. He supported his 2016 album “Are You Serious” at Allstate Arena in January, opening for The Lumineers. He returned for a headlining set at Ravinia Festival in the summer.
Although Bird is concluding another seasonal run of his beloved Gezelligheid concerts at Fourth Presbyterian Church this week, he isn’t ready to leave his former hometown just yet. The virtuoso violinist, multi-instrumentalist, otherworldly whistler and indie rocker has one show remaining before retreating to warmer climes for the end of year. On Saturday, he’ll return to his old haunt, the Hideout, for an intimate show benefitting Foundations of Music.
Bird’s “Are You Serious” garnered substantial acclaim and produced gems including the lonely and forlorn “Capsized,” the watchful euro-dancer “Roma Fade” and quirky folk duet “Left Handed Kisses” with Fiona Apple. The artist’s latest release “Echolocations: River,” however, eschews pop for meditative experimentation. The October release follows 2015’s “Echolocations: Canyon” in a series of instrumental and partly improvisational collections that find Bird exploring the acoustics of physical spaces with his violin, whistling, and occasionally his voice. Bird may be unlikely to perform the gently unfolding and uplifting “Down Under the Hyperion Bridge” at the Hideout, but his willingness to reach for new sounds correlates to a habit for bending familiar song arrangements into new shapes in concert.
For an artist who doesn’t like to repeat himself, a small show among friends and longtime supporters in a comfortable environment is ripe for unexpected twists. The cat is out of the bag about one surprise that does glance backward. Friday’s performance will include a highly anticipated reunion of the Bowl of Fire, Bird’s post-war, gypsy-folk, swing combo that released three albums beginning with 1998’s “Thrills.” (Bird made a rare return to play a deconstructed version of the band’s “Glass Figurine” at a prior Hideout show this decade, but a chance to hear the old gang play it was unanticipated by most.)
Support of a worthy cause also makes the show a can’t-miss event. Foundations of Music facilitates music education programs for 30 Chicago Public Schools. An annual scholarship (under Bird’s name) provides private music lessons to a student at the Chicago High School for the Arts.
Bird’s future plans include “Echolocation” installments dedicated to “City,” “Lake” and “Forest,” as well as further episodes of Bird’s popular Facebook Live series “Live from the Great Room.” Guests for lively duets and musical shop-talk during 2017 included Lucius, The Handsome Family, Jonathan Richman and Nickel Creek’s Chris Thile, among others.
Jeff Elbel is a local freelance writer.