The Stranger, April 3, 2003

Bobby Birdman Gets Intimate

by Megan Seling

Many months ago I fell in love. As Bobby Birdman played the Vera Project, he stepped off the stage mid-set, continuing to sing and play bass without the assistance of amplification. The vulnerability of his actions went so well with the intimacy of his music, it was all I could do not to start swooning.

Birdman, a 24-year-old Portland man (real name Rob Kieswetter), did what many performers wouldn't dare do, finishing his set sans microphone while standing among the quaint audience in a sort of musical nakedness. His calming voice wafted through the yawning space, seducing the crowd with close contact and an unusual mix of lyrical material.

Birdman's latest album, Born Free Forever (Hush Records, 2002), is a shining example of his talents. Through his dramatic imagery, recurring sounds and lyrics, and the obscure story line existing therein, Born Free Forever is a record that doesn't easily reveal itself. In "I Said 'OK.' The Wind Said 'No!'" he sings, "Tonight I drew first blood, I couldn't stop the flow. What fills me up from above, has let me out below."

The track is just one example of the many times blood is mentioned on this disc, one of many recurring themes (which also include fear and sight) weaving themselves through his songs. Together, these ideas form a character on a moody journey of having, losing, learning to live with loss, and then finding something again.

Kieswetter says he took great care to create a deeper story line in his music. "I've consciously made recordings that require close attention, where the subtleties share importance with the more obvious elements," he admits. "The result is a very dense record that may take a few listens to seep in."

While Kieswetter's records brilliantly shine, it's his live show that brings everything full circle. He knows that he can't re-create the intimacy of his voice whispering in your ear through the headphones, so he takes a different route, making the audience part of the show. "I often try to get the audience to lend a hand and/or voice," he says. "I love singing and playing with other people."

copyright 2003 loss leader