Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wilco-The Incredible Shrinking Tour of Chicago, December 2011

The title of "Band of 2011" simply has to belong to Wilco. Not only did they release one of the best albums of the year, but they rocked the globe playing over 100 shows. But the band reserved the biggest treat of the year for their hometown fans in Chicago; playing 5 shows in one week, each at a venue smaller then the last. Beginning the week at the beautiful 3500 seat Civic Opera House and finishing up at the 500 seat Lincoln Center, the band not only sounded fantastic, but played almost 100 different songs from their catalog! Who does that?? And the highlights were certainly many. One of the many reasons I love Wilco is the way they craft a setlist so that each show conveys an ebb and flow of emotions where every show may feel different.

Opening night at the marvelous Civic Opera House featured the gorgeous and rarely played "Being There" nugget; "Far Far Away", with its "kiss and ride on the CTA" line wooing the Chicago fateful. The show also had the added treat of an classic encore performance of the Nick Lowe penned "Cruel to Be Kind" joined by the author himself. As if that wasn't enough, the band brought out the incomparable Mavis Staples, who ran through the Jeff Tweedy penned "You are Not Alone" and The Band classic "The Weight"! Luckily, this show was webcast and captured in perfect quality (featured below in its entirety).

Night Two at the grand Riviera nightclub belonged to my favorite Wilco album; 2004's "A Ghost is Born". Featuring 6 songs and a B-Side from said album, the band played a masterful show culminating with the epic set list trifecta of "Reservations">"Spiders">"I'm a Wheel"!

After a day off, Night Three was hosted at my favorite Chicago venue and site of many a classic Wilco show; the Vic Theater. Hands down, this show belonged to guitarist extraordinaire Nels Cline. Always a unique and great player, he simply owned the night song after song especially during the early one-two punch of "Muzzle of Bees" and "Hotel Arizona". Capping of a blistering show with the plaintive "Being There" lullaby "The Lonely 1", the band sent the fans home walking on air.

Just a spits distance from Wrigley Field, Night Four amazingly featured Wilco's first ever appearance at the claustrophobic and classic Chicago venue, The Metro. As the bands popularity has grown, Wilco have recently mastered the art of playing big festivals, so walking into the tiny Metro fans knew they were in for a treat. I assumed due to the size of the venue, the show would be a more low-key, mellow affair. Wrong! Playing as if they were at the freaking Glastonbury festival, the band ripped through an intense set which held nothing back. Closing the night with the rockous "Dreamer in My Dreams", Wilco sent the fans home with what I can only assume was some blissful ringing in their ears.

But the best was truly saved for last. After a night off, the band played the teeny 500 person seat Lincoln Hall; a benefit show for local charity Inspiration Corporation which raised over $63,000 for the poor and homeless. Playing an insanely nice setlist featuring many of the bands quietest compositions, the show felt special and much closer in emotional tone to those Jeff Tweedy solo gigs. Ending with the mournful 'Sky Blue Sky" closer "On and On and On", the band perfectly book-ended a very magical week in Chicago while leaving future possibilities endless.

The week was the perfect celebration for the band and their fans after a wonderful year in Wilco world. Thanks to the tireless dedication of the tapers, you can enjoy a mix (from the best available sources I could find) of each different song played over the course of the week. I hope you enjoy listening as much as I do!

Night One-Civic Opera House

Night Two-Riviera Theater

Night Three-Vic Theater

Night Four-Metro

Night Five-Lincoln Hall

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