Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Live: Wilco / Mess Hall

Uptown Theater -- Kansas City
March 21, 2006

Setlist: Hummingbird, I Am Trying To Break Your Heart, Don't Forget the Flowers, Airline to Heaven, Handshake Drugs, Muzzle of Bees, At Least That's What You Said, Either Way, Hell is Chrome, Spiders (Kidsmoke), Jesus Etc., Theologians, Walken, The Good Part, I'm The Man Who Loves You, A Shot In the Arm.
Encore: Magazine Called Sunset, I'm Always In Love, War on War, Kingpin, The Late Greats.
Encore II:
Misunderstood, Thanks

When did "Kingpin" become a kick-ass live song? I'd like to know. I'm secretly beginning to formulate a hypothesis that that song started Wilco down the track we've seen them on today. It is such a departure from the other songs of its era, I wonder if something inside of Jeff Tweedy's mind switched on after he wrote it. Most of Summerteeth seems to long for the lyrical freedom "Kingpin" brought about (atypical structures, non-sequiter, use of the sound of words over the meaning) while maintaining the more typical song structure. [See "Via Chicago," "She's a Jar"]. Somewhere before Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Tweedy discovered how to capture it both lyrically and muscially. (Pitchfork opines it happened when he met Jim O'Rourke and made the first Loose Fur album. I won't disagree, necessarily.) If you have another way to explain how we get lyrics like "I assasin down the avenue" and "spiders are filling out tax returns," I'll take it. At any rate, I've seen "Kingpin" played at the last two Wilco shows I've seen. Both times it floored me how great it is. Maybe it's always been this way and I just never noticed?

Spiders (Kidsmoke) is only on an album so they have an excuse to play it live, where it really benefits. I sometimes -- okay, most times -- think it gets stale on the album after four and half minutes. Live, it soars.

Wilco's new songs, especially "Walken," sound like Crazyhorse playing Zeppelin. It's like you could just hear them gearing up for a take on "Whole Lotta Love" as they wound down from "Walken." I like the new tack the band has taken (i.e. lots of electric guitars; more rock and roll, less country/folk), though I think in some ways the sound distances the band from the crowd. Maybe it was just that everything seemed almost too professional. I'm not sure it is a criticism -- Tweedy did remark on how they didn't feel like talking out of respect to Mikael who couldn't (cold) -- but it was almost as if the band was almost too surgical in its presentation, all while the crowd was too respectful, if that makes sense. Somewhere along that continuum it was more about seeing a band at the height of its powers rather than feeling the music or feeling like you were a part of a group experiencing something special, momentary and fleeting. I'm kind of left feeling, the day after, like Kansas City could have been any city on any night.

Is it possible that Wilco is too good?

As for mp3s, I have two to offer. A great (and vastly different) solo take on "Spiders" from Tweedy's recent solo tour and "The Ruling Class," a preview from the new Loose Fur album (Tweedy, O'Rourke, Kotche side project -- follow link above for review).

Jeff Tweedy || Spiders (Kidsmoke) [live, 11/6/2005]
Loose Fur || The Ruling Class [From the forthcoming Born Again in the USA LP]

(Songs are hosted on and will be live until they have been inactive for 30 days. mp3s posted are for purposes of furthering obsessions. Please support the bands in question whenever and however possible! If you are the owner of this material and would like it to be removed from this site, let me know and I will happily comply.)
(Photo by "chango" from viachicago message boards.)

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