Review by Danny Manco, First posted 6/20/99 to The Landing
Yes indeed, I did attend the Bowl of Fire show in Toledo Friday night, and had a fine time of it. I was a little taken aback at how few people were at the bar (the Citi-Lounge) -- there seemed to be at most a handful of folks who had come with any foreknowledge of who Andrew Bird is; most were just coming in off the street -- and I suspect that the relatively low turnout had a somewhat discouraging effect on the bands (especially the opening band, the Handsome Family, which was full of venom toward those people in the bar not really paying them any attention). Andrew Bird, too, once he got on stage, seemed a little dismissive of the whole thing, but perhaps that's just his usual stage presence. I don't know. Anyhow, I was really impressed with the band's musicianship and ability to put on an exciting show. My kudos especially go out to drummer Kevin O'Donnell, who really possessed and expressed enthusiasm. Let's see...from the "Thrills" album they performed, as I recollect, only "Eugene" and "Cock o' the Walk" (complete with washboard), which is my favorite Andrew Bird performance, so I was pleased. They also did a cover of "After You've Gone," which is on Katharine's new album, which may have been their direct source, although maybe they were attracted to the song independently of Katharine. I was in any event happy to discover that most of the songs which they did which I did not recognize, and which I presume are on the upcoming "Oh! The Grandeur," dispensed with that feature which I most disliked about "Thrills": the sort of brooding, overbearing, melodramatic, dare I say pretentious, atmosphere. The majority of the songs they performed Friday night were a little more upbeat, prettier, friendlier. Nothing wrong with unhappy music -- God knows I love it -- just not when it's so gosh darn, I don't know, theatrical. After the Bowl of Fire set (which seemed really short, an hour perhaps) I shook hands with the members of the band and lamely told them I really enjoyed the show. I also purchased a copy of "Music of Hair" and "Heretic Blues," but I really haven't had an opportunity to listen to and pass judgment on them.