Bonnie “Prince” Billy and Maiden Radio at the Vic

IMG_1885Bonnie “Prince” Billy (aka Will Oldham) returned to Chicago on Feb. 18, playing a concert at the Vic with the same band he played with last summer at the Old Town School of Folk Music — “The Bonny United Ensemble,” comprising Danny Kiely, Van Campbell, Roadie Rodahaffer and Drew Miller.

Oldham was in fine form, hopping around on one leg (as he is wont to do), and mixing in some interesting covers (songs by Bruce Springsteen, R. Kelly, Future Islands, and the Renderers, a New Zealand group). “Crewman/croonman” Oscar Lee Riley Parsons joined him onstage for the Buddy Holly song “Oh Boy,” and the two engaged in some odd almost vaudevillian banter.

IMG_1876SET LIST: New Whaling / The World’s Greatest (R. Kelly cover) / Easy Does It / Wai / Death to Everyone / For Every Field There’s a Mole / Love Comes to Me / A Dream of the Sea (Renderers cover) / Oh Boy (Buddy Holly cover) / Corner Of The Stair / Thunder Road (Bruce Springsteen cover) / Bed Is for Sleeping / So Far and Here We Are / Rubin and Cherise (Jerry Garcia Band cover) / Intentional Injury / One With The Birds / Quail and Dumplings

ENCORE: Seasons (Waiting On You) (Future Islands cover) / 2/15 > New Partner > 2/15

IMG_1853A nice bonus at this concert was the opening act, Maiden Radio, a trio from Oldham’s hometown, Louisville. The three women in Maiden Radio are Joan Shelley (whose solo album Over and Even was my favorite of 2015), Cheyenne Marie Mize (who made an EP of duets with Bonnie “Prince” Billy called Among the Gold in 2009) and Julia Purcell. Together, they sing traditional folk songs — which sounded delightful at the Vic. Maiden Radio also sounds lovely on its 2015 album Wolvering.

(Pardon my low-res iPhone pictures!)

Gillian Welch at the Vic

It’s hard to believe it had been seven years since the last Gillian Welch concert in Chicago. Playing Friday night (July 22) at the Vic, Gillian Welch and her indispensable partner, David Rawlings, picked up right where they left off: beautiful songs with subtle harmonies and head-spinning guitar solos. Welch writes that sort of lyrics that strike you anew with their poetry and truth as you hear them sung in concert, even if you’ve heard them a hundred times before.

As the doors to the concert hall opened and fans began filing in, I noticed Welch walking on the sidewalk in front of the Vic. No one else seemed to notice she was right there. Onstage, her persona was not shy, exactly — but she seems modest, humble and matter-of-fact. “We may not look excited, but we’re really very excited,” Welch remarked at one point. Rawlings frequently won midsong bursts of applause for all those long runs of notes he pulled out of his guitar with what seemed like no effort at all. This is truly a duo, not a solo singer-songwriter act — the duo of Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, who perform under the name Gillian Welch.

The showiest Welch herself got all night was during “Six White Horses,” which she introduced semi-apologetically, explaining that it was recorded in the studio without much thought as to how the performance would look onstage. Here’s how it looked: Welch played the rhythm by slapping her hands on her thighs and clapping … and she even did a little dance during one part of the song, using her boots like tap shoes. It sounded remarkably close to the studio recording — and it was quite fun to watch, winning Welch one of the evening’s most enthusiastic rounds of applause.

Welch played all 10 of the songs from her excellent new album, The Harrow & the Harvest, which is one of the year’s best. After a lively version of the 2003 song “Wrecking Ball” — second time Welch and Rawlings had played the song so far on this tour — Rawlings said, “I think we’ll do you one better and play you one we haven’t played on this tour at all. I feel like we’re in friendly territory.” That was the intro to “My Morphine,” a classic song from Welch’s 1998 album Hell Among the Yearlings. Welch’s songs tend to be sad, but that one is among the darkest of all. The crowd loved it. Afterward, Welch remarked, “I figured most of you guys didn’t come to hear happy songs, so what the hell.”

The applause at the end of the night was loud, enthusiastic and sustained. Welch and Rawlings rewarded the crowd with two encores, including a cover of the country classic “Jackson” and finishing on a perfect note with “I’ll Fly Away.”

SET LIST: Scarlet Town / Elvis Presley Blues / My First Lover / The Way It Goes / Annabelle / The Way It Will Be / Wrecking Ball / My Morphine / Hard Times / Red Clay Halo / SET BREAK / No One Knows My Name / Tennessee / Silver Dagger / Miss Ohio / Six White Horses / Sweet Tooth (Dave Rawlings Machine song) / Dark Turn of Mind / Revelator / ENCORE 1: Down Along the Dixie Line / Jackson / ENCORE 2: The Way the Whole Thing Ends / I’ll Fly Away

Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy at the Vic

Bonnie “Prince” Billy (a.k.a. Will Oldham) is a great enigma, an artist who’s hard to explain, with a walrus mustache that seems to hide half his face. He tends to hide from public exposure, too, though he did some interviews recently to coincide with the release of his new album, Beware. The Jan. 5 feature story in The New Yorker gave a fascinating glimpse of what it’s like hanging out with Oldham in his hometown of Louisville, along with the strange information that his musical idols are Leonard Cohen, Merle Haggard and R. Kelly. But as with any piece of writing about Oldham, the article still left you feeling like you don’t really know this guy or what makes him tick.
(He was also interviewed recently on NPR.)

Maybe his fans, including me, are just building up this sense of mystique around Oldham. But even if he weren’t such a mysterious man, his music would deserve the mythology. I’m still filling in some of the holes in my collection of Oldham music (he has released a lot of records over the years under various names), but it’s clear to me that he is one of our great songwriters today. His previous two albums, The Letting Go and Lie Down in the Light, ranked among my favorites of recent years, and the newest one, Beware, seems destined for similar greatness after a few listens. This one’s a typical mix of Oldham’s folk and country music, along with some peculiar touches of strings and horns. At times, it veers into the ornate orchestral territory of Astral Weeks or Nick Drake’s more symphonic music.

Oldham played Saturday night (March 14) at the Vic Theatre, his first concert in Chicago since a 2006 show at the Portage Theatre, and this one was a doozy. He had a terrific band playing behind him, including a couple of very talented musicians I often see around Chicago, Emmett Kelly on guitar and Josh Abrams on bass. Cheyenne Mize played violin and sang all the female leads and harmony parts, and one of the best percussionists around, Jim White, played drums. It’s a music-critic cliché to call music “organic,” but that is the best word I can think of to describe what this band was doing. The songs seemed to grow on the stage right in front of us, as Kelly played figures on his guitar halfway between melodic leads and rhythmic chords and the rest of the musicians fell into patterns they seemed to be inventing on the spot. They looked to each other for cues on what to do next, as if they were still learning these songs, but it never sounded unrehearsed in a sloppy way.

Oldham moved with peculiar gestures, kicking his legs backwards, flailing his arms. Are these actorly affectations or examples of the natural way he dances and expresses himself? Oldham is an actor as well as a singer, so one wonders how much of his stage manners are a planned performance and how much is spontaneous. Wherever those moves come from, they’re odd. Oldham clearly hasn’t read the official manual on how rock stars are supposed to move onstage, but he’s all the better for it. He comes across as a guy who lacks some of the inhibitions normal people feel, someone who’s not afraid of making a fool of himself.

The concert got off to a strong start, but then it turned into something truly exceptional when Oldham played his sixth song of the night, “Blood Embrace.” Beginning in a hush, the song built to a dramatic crescendo, and Oldham looked as if he was being transported by the magic. Jim White knocked over one of his cymbals as the song crashed to an end.

A few songs later, Bonnie “Prince” Billy played “A Minor Place” from his classic album I Saw a Darkness, and the band made that song sound like the anthem it deserves to be, the backup musicians blending their voices in woozy gospel harmonies. The way Kelly was playing the chords, it almost sounded like the band was about to break out into a cover of Elvis Presley’s “Suspicious Minds.”

Oldham followed up that song with “The Seedling” and “I Called You Back,” both from The Letting Go, and it become clear that this was one show where the performer was pouring everything he had into his songs. He did not let up, either. A little while later, as he let the band play an instrumental break in “Even If Love,” Oldham raised his eyes toward the ceiling. He seemed to be shaking all over. Then he broke the spell by asking sardonically, “What do you have to do to get a disco ball turned on?” (The Vic’s lighting guy responded with a disco-ball-like effect, though the actual ball itself never did light up.)

After this amazing performance, I’m still not sure who Bonnie “Prince” Billy is, but I don’t have any doubts about his talents.

SETLIST (missing a couple of song titles)
Sheep (from Ease Down the Road)
Hard Life (from Master and Everyone)
You Are Lost (from Beware)
How About Thank You (from a new 10-inch record)
A King at Night (from Ease Down the Road)
Blood Embrace (from Superwolf)
Lay and Love (from The Letting Go)
Where is the Puzzle? (from Lie Down in the Light)
I Send My Love to You (from Sings Greatest Palace Music)
A Minor Place (from I See a Darkness)
The Seedling (from The Letting Go)
I Called You Back (from The Letting Go)
Without Work, You Have Nothing (from Beware)
Beware Your Only Friend (from Beware)
Careless Love (from Ease Down the Road)
Even If Love (from Master and Everyone)
You Want That Picture (from Lie Down in the Light)
Nomadic Revery (All Around) (from I See a Darkness)
I’ll Be Glad (from Lie Down in the Light)
You Don’t Love Me (from Beware)
Nobody’s Darling on Earth (cover)

(Sorry, no photos!)

Cat Power at the Vic


This was one of those Cat Power concerts. OK, not a total train wreck like some of the ones I’ve read about. But it certainly had more than its share of awkward moments when the train almost derailed.

I’ve never seen her before, though I’ve heard about her aborting songs and entire concerts. The reports were that she had her shit together for this tour.

The backup group playing behind her, the Memphis Rhythm Band, is great, and she seemed at ease playing the role of front-woman. Man, she has some odd dance moves. She was perched on stiletto heels — and though she took off and put on her shoes several times over the course of the night, even when she was barefoot, she seemed to be poised on her toes like she might fall over at any moment. She made swimming motions with her hands, danced Irish-style jigs, did whatever move seemed to pop into her head. Most of the time, this was charming, though it was disconcerting when she continued moving around like a kook even during a pensive ballad like “Where Is My Love?”

Midway through the show, the band left the stage and Chan Marshall played a solo set, mostly at the piano. She does have a great voice, which came though whether she had the whole band or just herself for accompaniment. But the solo set dragged with meandering songs and rambling talk (including her discussions of “Arrested Development” and Sandra Bernhard). Somewhere in there, she did a haunting cover of “The House of the Rising Sun,” though it devolved after a few minutes.

When the band came back, the concert regained its momentum, with covers of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” and Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” (a fine version, but that too got lost when Marshall couldn’t remember the lyrics).

The concert seemed to be ending. Marshall and some of the other musicians (including her backup singers) joined hands and did some impromptu a cappella bit. They took their bows … and then Marshall decided to go over to the piano for another solo set, warning, “This is going to bore you.” The performances that followed were fine, but they really felt poorly timed. She reached for her guitar, then changed her mind, saying, “I gotta go, I gotta go.” She won some concert-ending applause, but then remained on the stage and started talking about her hair. People got quiet to hear what she was saying, then she walked off and the house lights came up within seconds. End of show.

Marshall blamed her odd behavior on drinking too much coffee, and also explained, “Sorry. I’m so stupid because I’m happy, that’s all.”

Waiting a few minutes later on the el platform, I overheard a woman who’d been at the concert angrily telling her date, “She just crapped on the audience.” I wouldn’t go nearly that far, but I know what she meant.

For better or worse, Marshall performs a lot of unscripted moments. Overall, the concert was worth seeing for a number of good musical moments, but man, it would have been better with some editing.

Drive-By Truckers at the Vic

During the set by tonight’s opening act, American Minor, someone in the crowd yelled out, “Play some Skynyrd!” (This is one conert where such a request is only half-joking.) American Minor’s singer replied, “We’ll play some Skynyrd-inspired shit. That’s what you’re here for, right?” It was indeed — although I think it’s unfair to limit the description of the headlining band, the Drive-By Truckers, to Lynyrd Skynyrd-style Southern rock. The Truckers have made their influences obvious, but their catalog of original music is so rich with great songs that there’s no reason to think of them as some novelty — a band in the 21st century playing 1970s-style triple-guitar countrified Southern rock? Imagine that.

American Minor was actually not all that Skynyrd-influenced, though ’70s rock was the source of everything the opening act played. I heard a lot of Bad Company, and a friend remarked that they reminded him of Alice Cooper. It was pretty good for what it was, with some decent guitar playing and a few dramatic musical moments, but I thought American Minor wore thin after a while. Another band, like Wolfmother, that needs to expand its sound a little beyond the influences.

The Drive-By Truckers, on the other hand, have taken similar influences and forged them into a sound all their own. They were in excellent form tonight, playing a lot of songs from their last few albums, and a few numbers from older records like Southern Rock Opera and Gangstabilly.

As usual, Patterson Hood was the most animated guy of the bunch. That grin of his is infectious. He always looks like he is having the time of his life as he performs up there on the stage, and he has a bit of Southern preacher in him as he holds forth at the microphone. Jason Isbell and Mike Cooley are a little more reserved in their stage presence, but their songs are just as good as Hood’s. Isbell’s anthem “Outfit” got an especially strong response from the crowd.

It was just another night for one of the world’s great rock bands.



Billy Corgan at the Vic

JULY 5, 2005
at the Vic

I expended most of my mental energy concerning this concert in writing an actual review for Pioneer Press. This was the first time I’d seen Corgan perform in concert since way back in November 1989, when I happened to catch the then-unknown Smashing Pumpkins open for the Buzzcocks at Cabaret Metro. I recall liking them at the time, and for some reason, they reminded me a little bit of T. Rex.

March and April 2005 concerts

The Underground Bee has been out of commission for a month or so… I was too exhaused by the big SXSW 2005 extravaganzato pay much attention to updating this site. It’s time to catch up. But first, here is an actual letter to the editor I received recently. (The authenticity of the signature is open to question, however.)


I have perused the “Underground Bee” Web site, and I have to admit I am quite disappointed. There is much blathering on about Rock Bands and nary a mention of honey, beeswax, hives, drones, queens and such. I found a reference to something called “Bee Thousand,” but did not understand its meaning. In the future, please try to add items that might be of interest to the striped population.

Buzz Aldrin

Well! I must admit I keep promising to expand this site’s purview beyond the aforementioned “blathering on about Rock Bands,” without fulfilling said promise. One of these days… I promise. I am far behind on my bee research.

Now, back to the blathering… Some recent concerts:

MARCH 25 — Orchestra Baobob at the HotHouse. This was the third time I’ve seen this fantastic band from Senegal. The grooves sounded as great as ever. Everyone was moving on the dance floor. PHOTOS.

APRIL 1 — The Kills at the Double Door. I have to plead ignorance about the music of the Kills  — I just listened to a little bit of their new album online as I decided whether to see this concert. I was intrigued when some critics compared the Kills to P.J. Harvey. I’m not sure that I see that much of a connection, but the Kills certainly put on a pretty darn entertaining concert. Guy on guitar, plus girl on vocals (and occasional guitar), plus drum machine. The spare lineup left them room to cavort across the Double Door stage, working up a good sweat. I will definitely be checking out the Kills’ music after seeing this show. Opening act Scout Niblett was simply tiresome. PHOTOS.

APRIL 3 — Dolorean at Schubas. The club was pretty empty as Dolorean took the stage at 11 p.m. on a Sunday, just 25 to 30 people sitting around to hear Dolorean’s lovely, quiet folk-pop. Bad timing, I suppose. Can’t these Sunday-night shows begin a little earlier? Anyway, Dolorean (which is mostly singer-songwriter Al James) sounded good live, and the lack of fans didn’t detract from my enjoyment. In fact, it made it seem more like James and band were playing a personal gig for the few fans in the place. One of the opening acts, Jeff Hanson, had an amazingly feminine voice, though this guy didn’t look the least bit androgynous. His songs sounded pretty good on first listen, falling somewhere in Jeff Buckley/Nick Drake territory.

APRIL 9  — Magnolia Electric Co. at Schubas. I‘m still not convinced that the 2003 album titled Magnolia Electric Co. was actually by the band called Songs:Ohia. That name doesn’t appear anywhere on my copy of the disc (though I’ve seen copies with a Songs:Ohia sticker). In any case, Jason Molina is now officially calling his band Magnolia Electric Co., and it is a first-rate group. Neil Young and Crazy Horse comparisons are inevitable, but Molina has his own distinctive voice. I like its natural quality. While he doesn’t do a Mark Knopler talk-singing thing, I get the sense that his singing comes straight out of his speaking voice. There’s something very conversational about it. And I love those deep-pitched solos that he plays on the lower strings of his guitar. Three members of Magnolia Electric Co. served as the opening act, playing in the incarnation known as the Coke Dares. Their shtick is playing very short songs in rapid succession, always being sure to say the name of each song. It was quite humorous. I’ll have to hear the songs on CD to say how worthwhile they are, but the Coke Dares seemed to pack a lot into each little burst of music. PHOTOS.

APRIL 15 — Paul Westerberg at the Riveria. He smashed a TV, a telephone and a guitar. He played a lot of his recent solo songs and a few odd covers (“If I Had a Hammer,” “Different Drummer”). He took swigs of whiskey. The concert degenerated into a series of aborted songs: one verse of “Like a Rolling Stone,” half of “Substitute,” a few chords from “Sweet Jane,” the riff from “Cat Scratch Fever.” His band anxiously awaited his next move. Someone got up to leave from a balcony seat and Westerberg said, “Hey, don’t you dare walk away!” Westerberg was falling down on the stage as he played his guitar. Was it all an act? He threw the microphone out into the crowd during “Can’t Hardly Wait,” and then jumped off the stage himself. End of show. Would he bother coming back for an encore? Yes! Glorious versions of “Alex Chilton” and “Left of the Dial” ensued. Was this concert a train wreck? Yes, at times, but it also had moments of triumph.

APRIL 16 — Andrew Bird at Metro. I had the honor of interviewing Mr. Bird recently, and it’s always an honor to see him play live. He’s still doing his amazing one-man band act, using a sampler pedal to loop various string and guitar sounds, building a song from the ground up right in front of the audience. That’s fascinating to see and hear, and it helps that the songs are so good. Kevin O’Donnell was with him on drums tonight, adding jazzy percussion. Bird actually slipped up a couple of times as he tried to juggle all of the musical balls  — but in an odd way, that made his act all the more impressive. It makes you realize how difficult it is to pull off perfection. Near the end of the show, one round of applause swelled beyond the typical cheering, and I sensed a genuine outpouring of affection and appreciation from the crowd. Opening act Archer Prewitt put on a fine set, with his soft, jazzy art-pop songs building into catchy grooves. It was nice seeing Dave Max Crawford, who works as a Metro bartender, on the stage as part of Prewitt’s band, drawing a big hand for a trumpet solo.

APRIL 17 — Damien Jurado at Schubas. Somehow, I’ve missed seeing Jurado in concert until now. I was tempted to see Elvis Costello over at the Auditorium tonight (I’ve somehow missed seeing him in concert, other than one show back in 1989), but I just couldn’t blow off Jurado again. Jurado is one of those singers who doesn’t look the least bit like a rock star, which makes him seem all the more real. He sat down for the whole show, getting up once to go back and play drums for one song. A nice mix of Jurado’s quiet acoustic songs and some rockers, like “Paper Wings.” Responding to an audience request, he played “Ohio” from Rehearsals for Depature, noting that he was heavily medicated (from hospital drugs, not illicit ones) at the time he wrote most of the songs for that album, so he doesn’t really remember the experience. I picked up a copy of that CD on the way out  — I owned it once before, but then it was stolen from my car. I wonder if the thieves ever listened to it? PHOTOS.

APRIL 20 — M. Ward at the Abbey Pub. Another musician I enjoyed interviewing recently. And as I mentioned before, I am waging a campaign for the recognition of M. Ward’s current supremacy in the musical firmament. So of course I enjoyed this show, which featured Ward playing with a full band, his pals in the group Norfolk & Western. The concert had its share of quiet acoustic moments, but it also rocked, especially with songs such as “Big Boat,” “Vincent O’Brien,” “Four Hours in Washington” and “Sad Sad Song.” It’s nice how much Ward varies his live performances. “Fuel For Fire,” which he played on piano at Schubas in February, was back to being an acoustic guitar song this time around, but with a really well-played harmonica solo added to the intro. His Carter Family cover, “Oh Take Me Back,” which is just a short ditty on Transistor Radio, began with an extended bluesy instrumental section. Despite his renown as a guitarist, Ward felt comfortable enough with his role as frontman to take his hands off the guitar and just sing at times. And at other times, it was possible to hear a tiny bit of the surprising influences he mentioned in my interview with him: Sonic Youth and Firehose. None of his music would be confused with those bands, but at a few of the concert’s loudest moments, he did make some dissonant noise with his electric guitar. Norfolk & Western had its own slot as the first opening act, playing melodic folk rock, followed by Devotchka, which played artsy cabaret music — a little like Calexico, with whistling, violin and accordion Interesting, I thought, though obviously not for all tastes. The crowd seemed to dig it. …Speaking of which, the M. Ward crowd was quite young, and I spotted a Bright Eyes T-shirt. Maybe he’s picking up some fans from his tours with Conor Oberst. PHOTOS.

APRIL 21 — Yo La Tengo at the Vic. You might take it as a bad sign that I kept nodding off during this concert, but I’d put the blame more on lack of sleep than lack of interesting music. Yo La Tengo started off the concert with a long instrumental drone, three keyboards going at once, bearing some similarity to Wilco’s much-hated electronic experimentation on “Less Than You Think.” Personally, I like this kind of thing, in small quantities, at least, and I thought this was a daring way for Yo La Tengo to start off its show. (Plus, it gave me time to catch a few winks.) The trio kept things eclectic at this concert, with punky garage rock, super-hushed mellowness and tropicalia. They even did a little dance routine. Somehow, it all sounds distinctly like Yo La Tengo and no one else. Responding to very enthusiastic applause, the band played three encores. A reminder of what a great band this is. NOW why was this concert on the same night as Chris Stamey at the Abbey Pub? I would have liked to have seen both, and given the fact that Yo La Tengo plays on Stamey’s new CD, you wouldn’t think they’d book shows at the same time. Oh, well…

Jeff Tweedy at the Vic

MARCH 5, 2005
Jeff Tweedy
The Vic, Chicago

Jeff Tweedy’s occasional solo concerts are one reason I feel lucky to live in Chicago. Sometimes Tweedy uses these shows to try out new songs, which end up later on albums by Wilco (or one of his other projects). Tonight’s show was all about nostalgia, though, and I don’t mean that in a negative way. Resurrecting no less than five pre-Wilco songs out of the Uncle Tupelo catalogue, Tweedy seemed to be reconnecting with some moments from his past — and giving the musical equivalent of a big wet kiss to some of his most rabid fans, the ones who scream out requests for oldies like “Gun” at his solo concerts.
In addition to the five Uncle Tupelo songs, Tweedy played a couple by one of his side projects, Golden Smog; two from the Loose Fur album; and one from the Minus Five album that Wilco worked on with Scott McCaughey. He also gave a rare performance of the non-album Wilco song “Blasting Fonda” and played a cover of Mott the Hoople’s “Henry and the H Bombs.”
Few performers can command the attention of a large theater with just a voice and an acoustic guitar, and Tweedy is one of them. Two of his Wilco bandmates, John Stirratt and Pat Sansone, opened in the guise of their group Autumn Defense, playing beautiful, sleepy acoustic pop, most of it from the excellent 2003 album Circles. Stirratt acted as if he were a little daunted about playing these little songs in front of such a big audience. “It’s like Schubas on steroids,” he joked, commenting on how quiet the room was.
Tweedy played several songs before saying anything to the audience, but he was talkative later on, bantering with the crowd about all of the people holding up cell phones. Tweedy momentarily blanked out on the lyrics of “(Was I) In Your Dreams” and flubbed a chord or two in “Nothing’severgonnastandinmyway (Again),” which made him seem human. He had some fun at his own expense about this. Those lapses were forgivable, of course, as Tweedy once again showed himself to be an accomplished acoustic guitarist. And his voice? It has become so familiar to me and many other listeners that it’s hard to say much new about it or to rate his vocals on a particular night. It just sounds like the voice of a friend.
Tweedy joked that it seemed like he’d played 10 or 12 Uncle Tupelo songs tonight. Noting that “Gun” was 12 years old, he shook his head and wondered where the years had gone. After a false start in a lower key, he played the song without a capo in the higher key he originally sang it in for Uncle Tupelo. When he polled the crowd afterward, most hands went up for the higher version. Tweedy lamented that it’s harder to sing that way.
With Autumn Defense as the opening act, the odds seemed good for a surprise appearance by Wilco at the end of the concert. But I’d heard no such thing happened on the previous night (I missed that concert). And after two encores and 90 minutes of music, it felt like the show was over. Tweedy played an excellent version of “I’m the Man Who Loves You,” capturing the jaunty vibe that song had in incarnations pre-dating the final studio version on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Tweedy waved to the crowd and walked off stage. Many people (myself included) got ready to leave, but then some roadies appeared.
At the sight of a Persian rug, the crowd went wild. Yes, I know that’s a cliche, but it’s one of the few times in the last year I’d say it was a true description of an audience reaction… the other being the roar of applause when Wilco took the stage at the Vic a year ago. This band certainly has some devoted fans.
Just about everyone knew what the rug meant — Glenn Kotche’s drum set was coming out. The roadies quickly set up the drums, a couple of keyboards and guitars. Beaming like a giddy child, Kotche sat down and began playing the recognizable beat of “Laminated Cat” (aka “Not For the Season”). Tweedy came back out and played the Loose Fur song. Mikael Jorgensen and Pat Sansone joined in for “The Family Gardener.” Then Stirratt came out for the remainder of the mini-Wilco concert. All that was missing was guitarist Nels Cline, and Tweedy joked about that, having Sansone call him up on his cell phone. (He got Cline’s voice mail.)
Without Cline, Wilco’s sound was a little subdued and keyboard-dominated, but it matched the mood of the evening perfectly. The performance had the loose feel of a friendly living-room jam or rehearsal. Tweedy set down his guitar for three of the songs: Randy Newman’s “Political Science” (he even did a couple of leg kicks on the lines, “Boom goes London, boom Par-ee!”), “Hummingbird” and “I Shall Be Released.” After the big-keyboard finish of “Hummingbird,” Tweedy said, “Damn you, Jim O’Rourke! You made us sound like Supertramp!”
Those looking for clues about the direction of the next Wilco album were left clueless after tonight’s show, but it was a great look back at what Tweedy and his pals have accomplished so far.

Here’s the set list:

Someone Else’s Song
Remember the Mountain Bed
I Am Trying To Break Your Heart
Airline to Heaven
(Was I) In Your Dreams
Wait Up
Black Eye
Radio King
Chinese Apple
Bob Dylans 49th Beard
Someday Some Morning Sometime
Blasting Fonda
Someday Soon
Summer Teeth
I Can’t Keep From Talking

Encore 1
We’ve Been Had
Henry & The H-Bombs
Acuff Rose
I’m The Man Who Loves You

Encore 2

Encore 3
Not For The Season (with Glenn Kotche)
The Family Gardener (with Kotche, Mikael Jorgensen and Pat Sansone)
How To Fight Loneliness (with Kotche, Jorgensen, Sansone and John Stirratt for rest of set)
John Wesley Harding
Political Science
Late Greats

Encore 4
Passenger Side
California Stars
I Shall Be Released