On Thursday night, Wilco front man Jeff Tweedy played his second and final benefit show of the month at the Vic Theatre in Chicago. These now annual shows are notable for the fact that the first 30 people in line get to pick the setlist for that night.
As the house lights dimmed shortly after 7:30, Tweedy emerged from behind the large black curtain to a rousing ovation. Sporting thick-rimmed glasses, jeans and a denim jacket, some may think he was channeling his inner hipster, but I suspect age has something to do with his fashionable specs.
The prior night, Tweedy referred to his array of guitars as “The B Team” noting that his main gear was already on its way to Australia for Wilco’s upcoming Pacific Rim tour, which begins later this month. Nevertheless, the six guitars – including one 12-string – ranged in color from a light wood shade to a dark amber hue. Despite having six guitars, Tweedy only indulged in using two of them.
Since its inception in 1991, Lollapalooza has strived to offer diverse lineups covering all corners of the musical globe and beyond. Born out of the grunge movement, festival founder and mastermind Perry Farrell put together a traveling music festival with some of his best friends. Early lineups featured the likes of Pearl Jam, Nine Inch Nails, The Smashing Pumpkins, Beastie Boys, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Jane’s Addiction. The festival went through a period of inactivity from 1997 until 2002, but was jumpstarted in 2003, though it was very short lived. After canceling the 2004 traveling tour, festival organizers announced that starting in 2005 Chicago would be the permanent home of Lollapalooza as the fest changed format to become a destination event.
This year’s Lollapalooza will be remembered most for one thing: the evacuation. It was definitely one of the most surreal concert experiences I have witnessed in my 20+ years of going to shows. I am not trying to take anything away from the music, but the idea of moving 60,000 people in and out of Grant Park in less than three hours in a peaceful fashion was quite the feat.
Overall my my experience at this years Lollapalooza was pleasant. The festival organizers have been tweaking the grounds each year and the layout this year worked very well. Columbus Avenue, which serves as the main artery of the fest, boasted plenty of bathrooms, food options and beer stands. Fans who looked to escape the weekend’s oppressive heat were able to refill their water bottles at stands throughout the park and could also seek refuge under trees that lined the perimeter of the park. All of that aside, this past weekend’s Lollapalooza offered something for everybody’s musical palate, but the problem with that is that there isn’t enough time to get a little taste of everything.
Here is a little taste of what I saw….
Yellow Ostrich / Sony Stage
Fans who braved the absolutely brutal Chicago heat were treated to a great early set by Yellow Ostrich. Lead singer / guitarist Alex Schaff and company commanded the stage with songs from their latest album, Strange Land. Schaff’s edgy guitar riffs work perfectly on top of a tight rhythm section that included multi-instrumentalist Jon Natchez and drummer Michael Tapper. The songs ranged from ballads to gritty power pop including the very catchy Marathon Runner. Lollapalooza is definitely a marathon and pace is key to the weekend.
Lollapalooza 2012 starts on Friday at Chicago’s Grant Park. We’re sending our friend Jimmy Coulas of Scents and Subtle Sounds to cover the three-day fest for us and he’s prepared a list of five can’t miss bands set to perform at this weekend’s event.
1. Black Sabbath
When: Friday 8:05 – 10PM Where: Bud Light Stage
Heavy metal legends Black Sabbath will help close out the first night of Lollapalooza with their third and final gig of 2012. It’s been a tumultuous year for the reunited band as guitarist Tony Iommi battled Lymphoma and drummer Bill Ward declined to participate in the reunion. However, the band is marching on and according to Ozzy Osbourne, they are working on new material. While we might hear some of that new material, Ozzy and company will likely deliver a career spanning set that will undoubtedly draw a crowd of all ages.
As the lights dimmed and the 11-piece Tedeschi Trucks Band took the stage, fans had no idea that a storm was brewing on more than one front. Derek Trucks got things started by picking away at the opening riff for Everybody’s Talkin’, the title track from their new live album.
It didn’t take long for Susan Tedeschi to show off her beautiful soulful voice. She belted out verse after verse during Until You Remember. Keyboardist Kofi Burbridge added an organ solo while Trucks flew up and down the fretboard of his Gibson SG with his trusty slide on his finger.
The band kept the energy level high until Shelter took it down a few notches, but the breather was much appreciated. The band used the mid-set Mahjoun to stretch out their jamming muscles. Most of the band left stage with the exception of drummers Tyler Greenwell and J.J. Johnson, bassist Oteil Burbridge, Kofi Burbridge and Trucks. The band put together a nice jazzy groove with Kofi swapping keys for a flute. His masterful solo saw him scat singing in between flute notes. Oteil followed up his brothers solo with a bass solo of his own.
There is something about Coulas family weddings and Wilco shows. For the second time in three years, a Chicagoland Wilco show has followed a family wedding. After a fun, but exhausting weekend in Minneapolis celebrating my brother’s wedding, it was not only time to come home, but it was also time to see one of my favorite bands, Wilco.
The last time I saw Wilco, the circumstances were a little different. It was mid December and the band was holed up at some of the Chicago’s smallest venues as part of their “Incredible Shrinking Tour.” With the MLB All-Star break upon us and my Chicago White Sox in first place, I looked forward to seeing Wilco playing centerfield at Fifth Third Ballpark in Geneva, Illinois.
The weather was not only perfect for baseball, but also for a concert. Due to my flight being delayed and some parking issues, I missed sets by The Congregation and Andrew Bird. I arrived at my seat about 20 minutes before Wilco took the stage.
One of Wilco’s guitar techs was holding Nels Cline double neck guitar stage right, so I knew that a Dawned On Me opener was in store. It’s my favorite song from The Whole Love and it was a great way to kickstart the sold out crowd. The band would follow that up with War On War, I Might and I Am Trying to Break Your Heart.
The stage at Chicago’s Vic Theatre looked a lot different on Saturday than it did on December 15 when Wilco performed at the venue amidst their Incredible Shrinking Tour of Chicago. Gone were all of the amps, keyboards, drums and other noise making gear. Instead, four lights, six acoustic guitars, four audio monitors, a harmonica set and a few pedals made up the minimalist stage setup.
The annual Jeff Tweedy solo shows benefit Youth Scholarships for the Near North Montessori School in Chicago. It’s not that often that Jeff Tweedy plays solo shows, so I jumped at the chance to see him twice in a weekend. The unique thing about these shows is that the first 30 people in line get to pick the setlist. I wasn’t one of the first 30 people in line, but if I had been, my pick would have been Albuquerque by Neil Young.
Wilco is enjoying the holidays with a much deserved break from their very busy touring schedule. The band will begin their West Coast swing on January 19 at The Fillmore in Denver. This past October, fellow HT contributor DaveO dissected Wilco’s fall tour setlists for a closer look at how the band crafted their shows. With Wilco’s “Incredible Shrinking Tour” of Chicago in the books, I wanted to take a similar look at the setlists that Wilco crafted for their five nights in the Windy City.
Historically, Wilco has always favored smaller venues in Chicago. The only exception was their sold out two-night run at the UIC Pavilion in 2009. While this obviously leads to a lot of ticketless fans, it definitely allows for intimate shows. Wilco played to approximately 9,120 people over the five nights and had not played three of the five venues previously.
Our coverage of Wilco’s “Incredible Shrinking Tour” of Chicago comes to a close with a recap of last night’s finale at Lincoln Hall. We’d like to thank Jimmy Coulas of Scents and Subtle Sounds for his kickass coverage of the run. Be sure to check out Scents & Subtle Sounds for much more from Jimmy, but he’ll be back around these parts soon.
If Friday’s Wilco show at Metro was a family reunion then Sunday night’s show at the 507-capacity Lincoln Hall was the greatest holiday party ever thrown. Many fans braved the frigid Chicago temperatures for hours just to secure a prime spot on the floor. The band showed their appreciation by passing out coffee to those in line.
The small stage resembled more of a cluttered living room than anything. The vintage looking lamps that were spread around the stage enhanced the living room vibe. Due to space constraints, the band was using less than half of their normal gear. Nels was sporting a much smaller amp and didn’t have his table full of gadgets including his trusty Korg Kaos Pad. Keyboard wiz Mikael Jorgensen was without his organ and Pat Sansone was limited to one keyboard.
Last night’s Wilco show at Metro felt more like a family reunion than a rock and roll show. Flanked by family and friends Wilco made their debut at the legendary club a show to remember. The band dove deep and found gold in the set opening sequence of Sunken Treasure > Wishful Thinking > Art of Almost.
One of the highlights of the night came in the form of Ashes of American Flags. The Yankee Hotel Foxtrot cut featured a soaring guitar solo from Nels Cline that ended with one of his signature guitar freakouts. After the song ended Tweedy glanced over at Cline, shook his head and smiled. Yeah, it was that good!
I can’t say that I’ve ever seen a sign at a Wilco show, but tonight, a fan brought a “Either Way” sign and the band obliged by playing the song. Before Capitol City, Tweedy noted “This is probably the most hated song on our new record, but that’s why we are going to play it.” You could tell that Tweedy enjoyed the intimate setting of the venue. Throughout the night, Tweedy chatted it up with people towards the front of the stage and surveyed the crowd.
The first two Wilco shows on the group’s “Incredible Shrinking Tour” of Chicago carried two completely different vibes. On Monday, you had opening night jitters and a very soulful rendition of The Weight featuring Mavis Staples and Nick Lowe to close the show. Tuesday night saw the band playing very loosely and jamming out several numbers with the 15 minute Spiders (Kidsmoke) as the crown jewel of the evening. What vibe would Thursday’s show take on?
With Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel in attendance, Wilco reached deep into their extensive catalog and treated the sold out crowd at the Vic to a fun filled show. A great example of the band digging deep was the early set Hotel Arizona. It was played for only the second time since 2009. The songs energy built up slowly like a locomotive gaining speed all the while Nels Cline franticly covered all 21 frets on his battered Fender Jazzmaster at break neck speed.
“We haven’t taken time to introduce ourselves. We wrote a song about it,” noted Tweedy before Wilco (The Song). Instead of Tweedy introducing his bandmates towards the end of the song, a synthesized voice introduced the entire band one by one. Hesitating Beauty and Summer Teeth were very pleasant late set surprises before Nothing’severgonnastandinmyway(again) and Dawned on Me closed the set.
On Tuesday, Wilco brought their “Incredible Shrinking Tour” to the Riviera Theatre for the second show on their citywide tour. The venue, which is a little more than eight miles north of the Civic Opera House, has seen better days, but is rich with Wilco history.
There was definitely an energy in the air that carried over from the from the night before. The memory of Mavis Staples, Nick Lowe and Jeff Tweedy taking turns signing verses of The Weight was still very fresh in people’s minds. I took a pass on trying to squeeze onto the main floor and grabbed a seat in the last few rows of the balcony.
The lights dimmed and the band arrived on stage at 9:16 and thus began one of the best Wilco shows I’ve ever seen. The band was oozing with creativity and were exploring soundscapes that would make Phish fans blush. Less Than You Think > Art of Almost laid the groundwork for the exploratory theme that developed throughout the show. Bull Black Nova was jammed out a bit and the harsh sounds of Nels Cline’s guitar revived a crowd that was lulled to sleep by the previous song, Black Moon.
The first curve ball of the night was the early set Red-Eyed and Blue > I Got You (At The End of the Century). Both of these songs usually show up next to each other in the encore, but the band had different plans. You Are My Face made its first appearance since May 5, 2010 and was welcomed home with open arms.
Last night, Wilco played their first show in Chicago in over two years. It also marked the band’s first performance at the spectacular Civic Opera House. The band wasted no time in playing new material for their hometown crowd as three of the first four songs were from The Whole Love. The driving bassline of Art of Almost got the crowd’s blood flowing while I Might featured drummer Glenn Kotche relentlessly pounding his drums as Nels Cline injected some razor sharp guitar riffs.
“Hello, It’s so lovely here. It’s good to be home. We’ll have to catch up later,” exclaimed Tweedy before the starting the crowd pleasing Impossible Germany. Tweedy was chatty and it good spirits all night, but his line of the night: “You guys are rowdy. I don’t know if they smoke this much weed at the opera usually. You smell high.”
Wilco reserved the middle of the show for some of their slower tunes including the country infused Far, Far Away, the uplifting What Light and Capitol City, which carries a similar feel to The Beatles Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.
Starting today, Wilco will bring the latest leg of their world tour in support of The Whole Love home to Chicago for five shows at five different venues across the city. This isn’t the first time Wilco has had a residency in the Windy City. Back in 2008, the band set up shop at the The Riviera Theatre and performed every song from each of their studio albums over five incredible nights. Let’s take a look at the venues on Wilco’s “Incredibly Shrinking Tour” of Chicago.
Civic Opera House
[Photo by Ardis Krainik]
Monday, December 12, 2011
Support: Nick Lowe
Previous Wilco Shows: None
The residency will begin with Wilco’s first ever show at the stunning Civic Opera House. The venue, which opened on November 4, 1929 features and art deco interior and is the permanent home to the Lyric Opera of Chicago. While it is highly unlikely, it would be awesome if Jim Cornelison would sing the national anthem before Wilco hit the stage.