Tuesday, February 26, 2008

It's Just That Simple

At this point in time Wilco might be the best rock band in the world. To their adoring (and compulsive fans) they certainly can do no wrong. What better gift to their faithful followers than a 5 night run in a intimite venue where they promised to play all of their songs from their studio recordings, plus a few assorted rairites? And they delivered. I was lucky enough to see 2 of the 5 shows (tickets were gone in seconds). Fans waited for hours in sub-freezing temps to be at the front of the stage and first row balcony for the general admission shows. The band responded by sending out hot chocolate and coffee. The Riviera is a pit, but the sound was great, and good audience recordings can be found on-line. Wilco still has a large share of die-hard, respectful fans that can remain almost dead silent for the quiet acoustic numbers, although these days may be numbered as the band grows in popularity.

At 3 hours, 30+ songs each night, the shows were vaguely disguised as rehearsals for their current tour, but the band played with such precision and energy that one would never know. It was really exhilarating to hear the deep album cuts that you always hope a band will play instead of the expected crowd-pleasers. Wilco did both, and seemed to be having a lot of fun doing it. A Wilco show is a wild ride of hard energetic rock, quiet country tinged tunes, walls of feedback-drenched sound, superb musicianship and vocals, and animated stage presence, They are not to be missed when they play in your town.

Among the many highlights from the 2-16-08 show was It's Just That Simple, the only song with a lead vocal by bassist John Stirratt, and rarely played. The crowd reaction to this song, with a beaming Jeff Tweedy on bass, was hair-raising after it ended. Long overdue, said Tweedy, and indeed it was. Andrew Bird joined the band for much of the set, too.

The 2-19-08 show included a combination of Poor Places>Reservations>Spiders(Kidsmoke) near the end of the first set that was truly stunning. This show was simulcast on WXRT, and pretty easy to find on-line. At the end of the last show Tweedy remarked "Let's do this again next year." We can only hope.

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