Sunday, July 02, 2006

Concert: Wilco, Winnipeg (July 1, 2006)


Chicago indie-rockers blasted through the Burton Cummings Theatre last night on their Kicking Television Tour 2006. About 1100 fans showed up.

When he was finished singing and playing acoustic guitar, leader/frontman Jeff Tweedy would swap it for an electric guitar and coax out some interesting harmonics from the feedback for a couple of minutes to add an extra dimension of atmosphere to the songs. The ban was rounded out by Nels Cline on lead guitar, bassist John Stiratt, drummer Glen Kotche, programmer/keyboardist Mikael Jorgenson and Pat Sansone who switched between electric guitar and keyboards. If you watch the documentary I Am Trying To Break Your Heart, which follows the band as they record their album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, while going through line-up changes that almost killed off the band, you get see that only Tweedy, Kotche and Stiratt remain from those days.

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Wilco's songs run the gamut from quiet, bitter-sweet songs to all out balls-to-the wall rock with the ferocity of raging punk music. Drummer Glen Kotche lashed away at his cybals while bouncing up and down on the stool, gritting teeth to show the intensity of his playing. Keyboardist / guitarist Pat Sansone was quite energetic, striking some good rock star poses and whipping his hands around for some Pete Townsend trademark windmills. Guitarist Nels Cline didn't move around as much but he twisted and contorted his body as the notes flew off his axe. Bearded and scruffy looking Jeff Tweedy made several references to Canada Day and talked about how they wish they were Canadian, etc. I have no idea how he managed to play the entire show in a sports jacket, given how hot it was inside. He also sported some injury with one of his legs, as he was wearing a brace, but despite requests from the audience, he never explained what happened to him.

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I met a few fans who I totally enjoyed chatting with. Some of these people were way more fanatical about the band that I was, having travelled to different cities to see them. As I leaned on the stage, a couple of fans tapped the back of my shirt to point of the Winnipeg tour date and we ended up with a fun conversation about how it's been a great year for shows in Winnipeg. They also sang outloud to many of the songs, several of which I knew but not well enough to sing along to. Every time the band played the opening notes to a song they liked, they would exclaim, "Here we go!" Other fans in the first and second row talked to me about how they ended up getting their tickets. These two ladies in the second row were oblivious to either the Wilco fanclub pre-sale or the Ticketmaster one and just bought theirs when tickets when on sale to the general public. I originally ended up in the balcony for the Ticketmaster pre-sale, but then I tried the fanclub pre-sale moments later and ended up in the front row. I called Ticketmaster and they actually cancelled my balcony seat, which was nice but odd since they say all sales final, I thought. One guy hiked from Banff to Edmonton to catch the tour and then made his way back to Winnipeg, his hometown, for yesterday's show, although he was supposed to work that day, so it cost him a job. He's supposed to hang around for the Folk Festival, at which Son Volt are playing. Wilco and Son Volt are both offshoots of the band Uncle Tupelo.

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I was unfamiliar with the opening act, Elliot Brood, a three-piece from Toronto, but they quickly had people dancing up a storm in front of the stage. They were really good and I plan to visit their website to buy some music. They describe their music as "Death Country – dark, gritty folk music built around whiskey-drenched vocals and lyrics evoking images of love, loss and murder. In their soul-thumping bluegrass songs, banjo keeps time to a strange and chunky angular stomp, with vicious Kentucky-hardcore acoustic guitar and somber, achingly confessional vocal harmonies," which pretty much sums them up. At one point, a fan shouted out the request for "Jackson," which had me thinking they were going to play the Johnny Cash/ June Carter Cash classic, which they totally could have, but instead it was a quiet original.

Fans were treated to seeing a magnificent, unmistakably unique band firing on all cylinders, plus a superb support act in Elliot Brood.

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Here's the setlist.
1. Airline To Heaven
2. Forget The Flowers
3. Handshake Drugs
4. A Shot In The Arm
5. At Least That's What You Said
6. I Am Trying To Break Your Heart
7. Spiders (Kidsmoke)
8. Hell Is Chrome
9. War On War
10. Jesus, Etc.
11. Hummingbird
12. Walken
13. Theologians
14. I'm The Man Who Loves You
15. Monday

Encore 1:
16. Passenger Side
17. Via Chicago
18. Kingpin

Encore 2:
19. California Stars
20. The Late Greats
21. I'm A Wheel

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