Wreckless Eric with Jon Langford and Amy Rigby at the Hideout

MARCH 11, 2006
at the Hideout, Chicago


A concert at 4 p.m.? What gives? Hideout honcho Tim Tuten explains that Jon Langford has been organizing some special concerts at the club every several weeks, and this time, he called up Tim with a late-breaking opportunity to bring the legendary Wreckless Eric to the Hideout, along with Amy Rigby. The club was already booked for that night, but a recent charity gig by Freakwater at 4 p.m. had been a success, so Tuten thought, Why not?

Tuten was in rare form with his logorrheic introduction to the whole affair – so much so that Langford’s first words, following Tuten’s intro, were, “I’m exhausted.” Langford played only songs from his new album, Gold Brick, and they sounded very good in concert.

Amy Rigby followed with a short but tasty set of her songs, including several from her 2005 album, Little Fugitive, which I liked quite a bit. She closed with the wonderful “Dancing With Joey Ramone.” Rigby said her daughter, who’s getting ready to go to college, was present, and she joked that she wants her to go into a career that’ll support her mom’s music. (“Just don’t do one of those ‘Girls Gone Wild’ tapes!”)

Then came Wreckless Eric, who hadn’t played in Chicago since 1980. One of my regrets in 2005 was missing his appearance at SXSW, so this was a great opportunity to make up for that. To be honest, I didn’t know any of his songs other than “Whole Wide World” (which I became familiar with through the Rhino D.I.Y. collections)… During his set, Langford had remarked that Wreckless Eric was an inspiration to the Mekons when they were starting. “That was sort of the template for the Mekons,” he said. “It’s Ok to be punk and sensitive at the same time.” And Rigby said, “I’m very excited he’s playing today. I’m just a fan.”

Even though I was unfamiliar with most of the songs, I found Wreckless Eric immediately engaging. Playing solo, he reminded me a little of Robyn Hitchcock. And he was an entertaining raconteur as he told stories and jokes over his guitar grooves – and didn’t hesitate in telling some of the chattier people in the back of the room to shut their  gobs. “Fucking hell, what are you talking about back there? I’m trying to do business up here.”

He introduced his biggest hit by sarcastically noting the similarity to Sting’s later song, “Fields of Gold” — “It’s by Sting, but I’m going to sing it with the correct lyrics.”

He also read a short bit from his memoirs (“I’m going to read it to you whether you like it or not”), and then brought out Amy Rigby to play with him on the last few numbers.

It was quite an entertaining way to spend a Saturday afternoon. Or as Eric put it (describing one particular moment of noise, not the whole show): “Sounded like a fire in a banjo factory.” Let’s hope Eric doesn’t wait so long before his next visit to Chicago.