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Review Sat Dec 06 2014

Wilco Winterlude: Night One in Review

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20 years. That's how long influential indie rock band, Wilco, has been crafting their tunes together, with Jeff Tweedy at the helm of the group's influential journey. Much to the delight of their Chicago fans, they've decided to play six nights at Uptown's Riviera Theater, performing each song from their discography only once, and spanning their entire musical career.

We've seen them move from creating rockabilly Americana tunes on their earliest records Wilco A.M. and Being There, to moving into uncharted territory with their unique and visionary folk records Summerteeth, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, A Ghost is Born, and Sky Blue Sky, culminating in their newest records, Wilco and The Whole Love. As their craft becomes evolved, their core identity remains the same. Lush guitar backdrops, delicately created lyrics, and their pure folk sound stay unchanged and untarnished.

The crowd at the Riviera Theater last evening received a musical treat that is unparalleled. Split Single supported the bill, a gritty rock group with a forthcoming new album. Rhythmic and mesmerizing, their songs oscillated from pure rock, to a wailing heavy metal voice, to fuzzy garage rock backdrops. They were a great up-and-coming group to begin the show, highlighting their newest single "Waiting for the Sun."

Wilco arrived onstage at 9:10pm. I was prepared to track just how long Tweedy and the group would perform their collection for the audience, and they absolutely exceeded my expectations. Performing a range of songs spanning each of their albums with no true order, each song was a surprise, each note less tangible than what would proceed, allowing grins to spring up throughout the audience, one by one.

A sweet rendition of "Via Chicago" opened the show. Amidst the lovely lyrical lines, the lights would suddenly flash, feedback blaring, interrupting the ballad with a furious wall of sound, only to careen back to the most simple form of acoustics. This introduction of reworked songs kept pace throughout the entire set, as songs emerged as reworked and reimagined.

"This is the first song we recorded 20 years ago," Tweedy noted as the rocking first chords "I Must Be High" began. The set moved through 20 more songs, from "Handshake Drugs," to "You Know I Will," and the subtle and powerful "On and On." Seated sections of the crowd were afoot at the first piano notes of "Hummingbird," and "Kamera" was taken from a languid acoustic ballad to a high-octane rock tune. The crowd remained energized through "I'm Always In Love," followed by "Heavy Metal Drummer," and concluding with "Dawned On Me."

We knew then that the show was not over. The group quickly emerged back onstage, and Tweedy was quick to give a speech with his notable wit about the merits of the audience. We were great, he said, but he would have to lie to the next audience and say we weren't great, and that they were better. The crowd laughed with him, old friends reuniting from the last show we all were together for.

The first encore featured four songs, a highlight being "Kingpin," in which we all hollered along with Wilco, bringing the Riviera Theater to a raucous moment or two. Ending with "Outtasite (Outta Mind)," the group exited the stage, but the lights weren't shining down on us just yet.

A second encore took hold, two hours into their set. Emerging huddled around a few staggered microphones, the group played reworked acoustic versions of four more songs: A continued production of "Outta Mind (Outta Sight)", "Art of Almost" (a request granted), "The Thanks I Get," and a glowing, beautiful version of "California Stars."

Wilco fans emerged to see a snippet of 20 years of musicmaking, and it was worth every penny. We have watched their music grow and shift, but it has retained the same sparkling quality throughout. The Wilco Winterlude brought together fans from across the country and beyond, to enjoy special musical moments. From Jeff Tweedy's vocals, Nels Clines' unparalleled guitar talent, and more, the show was a perfect gift to Chicago. A welcome holiday gift, indeed.

 
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Infinite Jester / December 7, 2014 5:58 AM

Wilco is a treasure. As a person who otherwise feels misplaced in this century, I know that I am lucky to be alive in a time that has allowed me to see and experience Wilco (in all their incarnations) for the past twenty years. I love, love, love this band--for their music, their dedication to their fans, their ability to experiment and grow while still embracing their past, their generosity, and... (I could go "On and on and on"). I am looking forward to the next 20 years. Thank you, Wilco!

Kelly / December 7, 2014 4:38 PM

I'll be at the Monday and Thursday shows. Looks like some of my favorites have already been played! Know we'll still get some more gems this week. Can't wait.

Michael / December 8, 2014 7:17 AM

I'm pretty sure they are not playing each song once. They will play every song from all of their albums over the course of ghe six shows, but some of the songs will be played more than once. At least thats how they've done it in the past.

Phil / December 8, 2014 10:58 AM

Michael is correct. In fact, they already broke out Art of Almost twice in the first 2 nights - with Friday's acoustic rendition and Saturday, the usual plugged in rocker. Both shows so far have been fantastic, as one would expect.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »

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