Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Wilco (the Show Review)

(Football talk resumes soon, hopefully Weds. --ed.)

Wilco (the Show Review): Nothing to Prove

Seeing a band such as Wilco evolve from clubs and theatres to an arena, it's hard not to feel a little like Trent in "Swingers," who declared Mikey "all grows up." Sunday night we saw a band that despite making the jump to arena rock (in literal venue size if not musicality) felt it had nothing to prove in the promotion, and delivered a solid if not spectacular performance for the hometown fans.

None of these men are smiling. Why is that?

There were a couple times where I felt Wilco was getting too love with its weird self, the first coming minutes into the show. During the first two songs, the stage right (Nels Cline and Mikael Jorgensen) were thrashing uncontrollably and unmusically. It stopped after a while, but it was almost as if they were trying too hard to be avant garde-y. The other was how many songs (like "Sonny Feeling") didn't end so much as trickle off into noisy feedback and distortion. While the artist may find the dissonance of interest, the wind-down into noisy garble deprives the fans of the chance to applaud at a proper ending. Wilco might say it's cool; I just found it annoying.

Generally though, this was a band comfortable where it is at this point in time. They segued from an intense, insistent "Bull Black Nova" to the warm "You Are My Face" featuring a co-lead vocal by John Stirratt. Two notes about that: Jorgensen played eighth notes almost nonstop for about six minutes straight during "Bull Black Nova." That's gotta hurt the wrists. And Stirratt got to take lead when he sang the only non-Tweedy-sung work in the Wilco oeuvre, his "It's Just That Simple" off "A.M."

And this show had two highlights from a set-list selection perspective: I'd never heard live (to the best of my recollection) "At Least That's What You Said" and hadn't heard "Kingpin" in forever (possibly since the "Being There" shows in 1997). Plus: not so much a set-list addition as a new instrument: Glenn Kotche finally used the gong behind him on "I'm the Man Who Loves You."

While you never know what exactly will be the highlight of a Wilco show, Sunday night had several fine moments. "Misunderstood" featured about 20 "nothings," gleefully shouted by the audience, knowing the irony that this city, this fanbase, has sustained and supported Wilco throughout the years. "Impossible Germany" featured the face-melting work of Cline, while Pat Sansone and Tweedy* noodled on the counter-line. "Handshake Drugs" similarily ended in a wail-fest on guitar. And a new wrinkle: Tweedy stepped away from the mic to let the audience sing "Jesus, etc." I think we acquitted ourselves okay, considering it came out eight years ago and has a lot of similar verses.

The opener was Tortoise, who in accordance with the Wilco's Opening Bands Must Suck Act of 1999, sucked. And though it was, all in all, a fine hometown show, I do have just one more complaint: the absence of the Total Pros.

The encore provided a fitting reward to the hometown fans, an eight-song rumble that could have stood as a fine mini-set list of its own, with a three-song stretch from 1996's superawesome "Being There."

The president of the United States hangs out with Wilco! Or vice versa, maybe. But either way: exciting!!

Wilco (the concert)
UIC Pavilion (the venue)
October 18, 2009 (the date)

Wilco (the song)
Shot in the Arm
Bull Black Nova
You Are My Face
I Am Trying to Break Your Heart
One Wing
At Least That's What You Said
Deeper Down
Impossible Germany
It's Just That Simple
I'll Fight
Handshake Drugs
Sonny Feeling
Jesus, etc.
I'm Always In Love
Hate It Here
I'm the Man Who Loves You

You Never Know
(band intros ... recorded sample triggered by Kotche)
Heavy Metal Drummer
the Spongebob song
Outta Mind (Outta Sight)
Hoodoo Voodoo
I'm a Wheel

* -- Not on purpose, but this might be the first-ever review of anything Wilco-related that has Jeff Tweedy as the sixth-mentioned member of the band.


mpf004 said...

anybody notice the Wilco song I accidentally stuck in there? Totally not planned, I swear.

Scott Mortimer said...

No - didn't notice. But I did notice the Spongebob Song! Andrew's favorite.

mpf004 said...

Mort, between the two of us, we can fill out a complete Wilco set list!! so what's the real name of the song?

TinaMarie said...

The name of the song is "Just a Kid" and its from the Spongebob movie...

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