Words by: Carlye Wisel | Images by: Donald Rasmussen
Wilco :: 02.16.08 :: Riviera Theatre :: Chicago, IL
If there's one thing Wilco fans have, it's dedication.
Lined up for blocks hours before the show, patrons braved Chicago's icy cold, wind-whipped winter, and later refused to leave at the end of the night without hearing at least one more song. Standing and waiting for Wilco from beginning to end paid off as the band's five-night residency at the Riviera Theatre perfectly explained why tickets sold out immediately and were being resold for hundreds of dollars. Tweedy and the boys know how to return the favor.
With a goal of playing "the complete Wilco," i.e. every song off their studio albums, during these dates, Saturday's show featured a special guest appearance, an unexpected encore, heaps of favorites and 32 songs focused primarily on A.M. and Being There.
Jeff Tweedy, dressed in jeans and a denim jacket opened with "Someone Else's Song" from Being There, delivering a performance that instantly proved why he's the type of musician who is best heard in a live setting. They gave the Riviera, a large, expansive, multi-tiered venue, the same atmosphere as a tiny club, which is perhaps the key to Wilco's charm, which possesses a deep resonance within zealous fans.
"Hell Is Chrome" had an unforced, wailing guitar solo, "Handshake Drugs" featured a seamless meld of frenzied outer space instrumentals, and guitarist Nels Cline single-handedly revived the crowd on "Muzzle of Bees." "Via Chicago" garnered more yelps later in the song than earlier, possibly due to the extremely noisy instrumental break paired with blindingly bright lights, which was an all-around painful experience until they effortlessly and impressively flowed right back into the song's more conventional parts.
With the audience energized throughout terrific renditions of crowd pleasers like "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart" and "Shot in the Arm," the clapping was almost deafening after A.M.'s "It's Just That Simple," which featured bassist John Stirratt on vocals.
Tweedy played mind games with the crowd before "Too Far Apart," asking, "How many people here hate to raise their hand? Aw, you guys are too smart." He stretched out his voice at the end in an attempt to hit high notes, which he met with decent success. "We'll probably play a few more songs and then we'll probably take an intermission, like The Dead," mused Tweedy before playing "Hate It Here" from the group's most recent release, Sky Blue Sky.
When Wilco's frontman says he'd like to bring out a friend, you know it's going to be good. Violin virtuoso and fellow Chicagoan Andrew Bird lent a fittingly beautiful hand on "Jesus, Etc.," "Forget The Flowers," "Dash 7" and "Christ for President." Bird was difficult to hear, but dynamic when audible.
Rounding out the first set with "Walken," featuring puzzlingly large guitar theatrics by Pat Sansone, and "I'm The Man Who Loves You" with a solo by Tweedy instead of Cline's usual spastic one, the crowd was given a set break and a chance to go to the bathroom. "Not all at once, though," joked Tweedy before the final song. "That would be gross."
| Wilco :: 02.16 :: Chicago|
They returned to the stage quickly with "The Late Greats," followed by "Heavy Metal Drummer," which was met by immediate shrieks after its notable two-second intro. Andrew Bird re-emerged to whistle alongside Tweedy on "Red-Eyed And Blue," the first of the set's five songs off of 1996's Being There. The second set felt significantly more like a rock show when juxtaposed against the country-inflected tunes of the first half. That rock feeling was further defined with "I Got You (at the End of the Century)," "A Magazine Called Sunset," "Casino Queen" and "Monday," which had another metallic mix of pounding drums, clanging cymbals and crazed guitars.
For as much energy as the audience had the entire night, they somehow stepped it up to shout responses to Tweedy's repetitive, "How can I?" on "Kingpin." He coaxed more intensity out of them by teasing that the Friday crowd could have done it better.
"This is so much better than rehearsing for free," laughed Tweedy, before inviting Andrew Bird to join them on "Passenger Side" and "Dreamer in my Dreams," which featured keyboardist Mikael Jorgensen's first notable solo of the evening.
Though "The Lonely 1" was preceded by a farewell greeting, the fans weren't ready for the show to end. Even after the house lights had come up and crew members shuffled onstage to start unplugging cords, roars from the audience for an encore continued to grow until it became evident that no one was leaving until Wilco came back.
Returning with a blunt "OK," Tweedy and the boys, as usual, gave the crowd what they wanted. Closing the night out with "ELT" and "Hoodoo Voodoo," Wilco showed that they were listening to every word the fans had to say.
02.16.08 :: Riviera Theatre :: Chicago, IL
Someone Else's Song, Hell Is Chrome, Handshake Drugs, Muzzle Of Bees, Via Chicago, I Am Trying To Break Your Heart, Hotel Arizona, A Shot In The Arm, Impossible Germany, It's Just That Simple, When You Wake Up Feeling Old, Too Far Apart, Hate It Here, Jesus, Etc.#, Forget The Flowers#, Dash 7#, 17. Christ For President#, Walken, I'm The Man Who Loves You
E1: The Late Greats, Heavy Metal Drummer, Red-Eyed And Blue, I Got You (At The End Of The Century), A Magazine Called Sunset, Monday, Casino Queen, Kingpin, Passenger Side#, Dreamer In My Dreams#, The Lonely 1#
E2: ELT, Hoodoo Voodoo
# w/ Andrew Bird
JamBase | Windy City
Go See Live Music!