Andrew Bird recruited the National frontman Matt Berninger for the latest episode of his intimate living room performance series, Live From the Great Room. The duo performed off-the-cuff duets of four tracks: the National’s “Pink Rabbits,” Bird’s “Heretics” and “Left Handed Kisses” and a cover of Lou Reed classic “Perfect Day.”
For the stirring version of Reed’s 1972 track, Bird added a sophisticated intro full of arpeggiated violin harmonies and heavy vibrato. Berninger handled lead vocals in his distinctive, brooding baritone, while Bird chimed in with occasional unison lines.
“Pink Rabbits,” originally from the National’s 2013 LP, Trouble Will Find Me, found Berninger belting with his eyes closed, nervously bouncing his legs. Bird strummed violin chords and added backing vocals, looping lead lines and whistling into a layered, elegant outro. “That’s a great song, man,” he told Berninger afterward. “Thanks, I didn’t plan to screw up my own song,” the National singer cracked. “I planned to screw up yours.”
“Left Handed Kisses,” from Bird’s 2016 album, Are You Serious, featured Berninger handling Fiona Apple’s original vocal part. After performing the post-modern love song, the musicians discussed the plight of the song’s characters. “I think these people are gonna make it,” Bird said. “It’s complicated.”
Throughout the set, the friends discussed a variety of topics like Los Angeles, the time they first met, the National’s unconventional writing process and whether or not a “Pink Rabbit” is an actual drink. (It’s not: “Don’t ever drink anything called a Pink [Rabbit] because it’s not endorsed by the FDA or the National at all,” Berninger said.)