In its recorded state, the Wooden Birds’ increasingly compelling catalog would seem to be the perfect campfire accompaniment – understated, breezy tunes ripe for hushed sing-alongs and propelled by subtle, hand-driven percussion. In a live setting, Andrew Kenny’s songs take on a greater weight thanks to the former American Analog Set front man’s new band, with lovely vocals from Leslie Sisson, under-the-radar guitar work from indie singer-songwriter Matt Pond and tactful drumming from Sean Haskins.
Temperatures were scorching outside when the Birds returned to Great Scott on Tuesday, but Kenny and company couldn’t be kept down by the heat as they plowed through a tight headlining set centered around material from their new album, Two Matchsticks. The crowd was light in numbers, but extremely enthusiastic throughout the band’s 16-song, hour-long performance – clearly a pleasant surprise for Kenny, who took to Twitter the following day to muse “I don’t know where that came from. Boston, that was the real deal.”
The band is currently on the road as a five-piece, and guitarist Chris Hansen wasted no time making his presence felt as he helped propel the Birds into a hypnotic groove with the album’s title track. The slinky, propulsive guitar of “Criminals Win” and the stellar vocal harmonies on the Sisson-led “Baby Jeans” were other early highlights, and selections like “Seven Seventeen” and “Sugar” from band’s debut, Magnolia, easily held their own when given the full-live-band treatment.
Late in the show, Kenny paired “Secrets” with “Hometown Fantasy,” standout songs that both spawned from a 2003 split EP with Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie. With the crowd hanging in there as “Long Time to Lost It” came to a close, the Birds kept things going, extended a typical abbreviated “weeknight set” with full-blown “weekend” treatment. The bouncy “Too Pretty to Say Please” eased into “Warm to the Blade” before the band closed by segueing from the Analog Set’s “Aaron and Maria” into the refrain from Jackson Browne’s “Somebody’s Baby.”
The Wooden Birds’ setlist:
Folly Club / Two Matchsticks / Believe in Love / Criminals Win / False Alarm / Baby Jeans / Struck by Lightning / Seven Seventeen / Bad / Secrets / Hometown Fantasy / Sugar / Long Time to Lose It // Too Pretty to Say Please / Warm to the Blade / Aaron and Maria –> Somebody’s Baby