Concert Review

Mavis Staples and Andrew Bird: A Wonderfully Rainy Night at NCMA

Rhythm and blues singer Mavis Staples joined indie rocker Andrew Bird as part of the North Carolina Museum of Art’s summer concert series Tuesday night.

Mavis celebrated her 73rd birthday at the Museum Park, and one fan even brought her a bouquet of flowers as a gift. She has one of the most powerful female voice I’ve heard, filled with raw soul and confidence. There were bluesy guitar solos and impressive drumming as Mavis tried to mimic with her voice what each instrument was doing.

As a North Carolina native, I understand that summer storms are unavoidable, which usually is unfortunate when paired with summer concerts. Tuesday night it actually worked in the crowd’s favor. About mid-way through Mavis’ set, the sky opened. The crowd immediately shuffled for their ponchos and umbrellas, but there was a group of us that  rushed to the front of the stage to “take advantage of the overhang to stay dry” – in other words, we’d finally found a legit excuse to get right in front of the stage. The NCMA folks were very cool about this and didn’t try to make us move. The show instantly became more intimate. We all sat down, singing and clapping along to the songs knee-to-knee with our neighbors.

Then, Mr. Andrew Bird. Coming out on stage initially by himself with his violin, he began his show with “Why,” from his 2011 album “The Swimming Hour.” This was an absolutely beautiful intro to his show, especially with the steady rain as background noise. Seeing how the music was performed live made me appreciate him as a musician even more. He and his band used loop pedals flawlessly to switch back and forth between instruments and play multiple layers at once. Andrew rotated between violin (which was played traditionally and ukulele-style), guitar, glockenspiel and of course his famous whistling. Some of my favorites of the night included “Orpheo Looks Back,” “Eyeoneye,” “Bein’ Green,” A Nervous Tic Head Motion of the Head to the Left,“ and "Fake Palindromes.”