I don’t think any description I can provide of Bird’s performance will even begin to do it justice; he really has to be seen. Any explanation I could provide just won’t make much sense.
For instance, in one song I counted the following instruments playing simultaneously: three violins, two more violins (these two being plucked rather than bowed), two guitars, a xylophone, drums, keyboards and whistling. And that’s with only two people on stage (Bird and his current sideman, Martin Dosh, on drums and keyboards).
Bird does a lot of sampling while playing live, so a song might open something like this:
Bird plays a haunting riff on the violin. uses a foot pedal to capture that loop and keep it playing in the background.
While the loop is playing, he starts playing the harmony against it. Again, uses the foot pedal to capture it.
Turns those loops off and starts playing his guitar. Builds up two loops of the guitar playing over each other.
With the guitar loops playing, he starts singing while playing the xylophone. Drums and keyboards join in. He re-adds the violins. Starts plucking the violin…
You get the idea. It’s mesmerizing to watch. In one song, I caught musical references to Irish fiddle music, spanish flamenco guitar (plucked on a violin, no less), a little surf guitar (actually played on a guitar), and, and… I’m still not doing it justice.
Oh look! YouTube to the rescue. Joe Bob says check it out!
And best of all, the new school girl will get to head off to the first day of class with a stamp on the back of her hand and new shave lines in her hair. Not a bad way for her to start the school year. 🙂