Thursday, February 25, 2010

Review: Wilco at the Overture Center

With the exception of two arena shows at the U.I.C. Pavilion back in October to support Wilco (The Album), Wilco (The Band) hasn’t played a full show in the Chicagoland Area since the Riviera Residency in February of 2008. When this show at the Overture Center in Madison, WI was added to their seemingly never-ending touring schedule, I knew that I had to go because I wasn’t sure when they would return to their hometown of Chicago.

My favorite venue in Chicago to see Wilco is the stunning Auditorium Theatre. For a few years, Wilco called the Auditorium home, playing most of their hometown shows at the iconic venue. While the Overture Center is only a few years old and lacks the charm of the Auditorium, it is truly a beautiful venue and the acoustics are marvelous.

As the lights dimmed the band walked on stage to the Olympic March, which is fitting considering most of the shows on this tour are north of the border, and the band recently played an outdoor show in Vancouver for the Olympic’s. Wilco (The Song) kicked off the festivities with the band sounding very fresh and dialed in.

After the chaotic Bull Black Nova, the opening chords to You Are My Face resonated through the venue. The song explodes with a heavily distorted guitar riff by Jeff Tweedy and then once again calms down towards the end. As the song faded out, keyboardist Mikael Jorgensen and guitarist Pat Sansone added some lullaby like textures as if they were putting the song to sleep. READ ON for more from Jimmy on Wilco in Madison.

Nels Cline gets a lot of attention for being an extraordinary guitar player, but during At Least That’s What you Said, Cline took a back seat as Tweedy tore it up with an incredible guitar solo proving that not only is he a gifted songwriter, but he’s got some chops on the guitar as well. With the Winter Olympics in full swing, Tweedy took the opportunity to bring up everyone’s favorite sport, Curling. Tweedy and guitarist Pan Sansone mimicked the sport by shuffling their feet and using the head stock of their guitars as brushes pretending to scrape the floor before launching into Sonny Feeling.

When the opening riff for Impossible Germany began, fans knew that a dizzying guitar solo was on the way. Nels Cline dazzled the crowd once again with his wizardry on the guitar. Cline’s hand traversed the fret board of his Fender Jazzmaster at break neck speeds to the delight of the crowd.

Wilco has always been a band that is accessible to their fans. They allow fans to tape and trade their shows and they also take requests via their website for each show. Fans were definitely in for a treat as the band busted out When the Roses Bloom Again. Tweedy announced that it was the most requested song for the show.

As the show was reaching the end, the band used an eight-song encore to send fans home that packed quite the punch. The band started out with a cover of Buffalo Springfield’s Broken Arrow, which Wilco debuted in January at the MusiCares tribune to Neil Young.

California Stars has always been a live fan favorite and tonight the version wouldn’t disappoint. Jeff Tweedy brought out Califone guitarist Tim Rutili and percussionist Ben Massarella to accompany them. Rutili took a guitar solo that added a little country flare to it as Jeff Tweedy and company watched.

After some brief banter Tweedy started the intro to Kingpin from Wilco’s breakthrough double album Being There. With its monstrous riffs, the song had people grinning from ear to ear. As a whole, Wilco is not a very predictable band. They change up their setlists on a nightly basis, but during Kingpin Tweedy changed the lyrics from “Living in Pekin” to the very predictable “Living in Madison”, a nod to the locals.

What would a rock show be without a big rock show ending? Wilco let it all hang out with Hoodoo Voodoo. As the song climaxed both Sansone and Cline found themselves trading guitar licks. As Cline would buzz through a quick riff Sansone was equal to the task. As the house lights came on some two and a half hours later, I thought to myself, what an amazing show.

Wilco continues to consistently perform at a level some bands only dream of. While the three-hour drive to Madison wasn’t bad, I would much rather see the band in the comfort of my own backyard. Chicago fans may have to wait a while for the beloved band to return, but when they do the Wilco will be welcomed with open arms.

Thanks to Scotty B at Hidden Track for publishing the review.

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