Wilco Catalogs Its Career at The Riviera
Wilco is currently three shows into its five-night, hometown Winter Residency at Chicagos The Riviera Theatre. Throughout its multi-night run, Wilco has promised to deliver the complete Wilco catalogue, including numerous songs the bands current lineup has never publicly performed. To the surprise of many, each night Wilco has used the same core of songs from its most recent releases, Sky Blue Sky (2007), _A Ghost is Born _ (2004) and _Yankee Hotel Foxtrot _ (2002), as the nuts and bolts of its show, fleshing out that setlist with rarer material from A.M. (1995), Being There (1996), Summerteeth (1999) and the Woody Guthrie songs the group reworked with Billy Bragg for Mermaid Avenue Vol. I and II. The sextet has also offered a few additional rarities each night, including the Mermaid Avenue outtake When the Roses Bloom Again and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot demo Cars Cant Escape on Friday, and the More Like the Moon EP song A Magazine Called Sunset, as well as the never before played A.M track Dash 7 on Saturday. Last night, the group focused in on its mellower material, unearthing rarities like Bob Dylan’s 49th Beard, the Mermaid Avenue Vol. 2 number Remember the Mountain Bed, the A.M. single Box Full of Letters and former member Jay Bennetts co-composition My Darling, which has not been played since 1999. Wilco also allowed bassist John Stirratt to take the central stage for his lone lead vocal on Its Just That Simple Saturday.
On Saturday frontman Jeff Tweedy addressed the crowds disappointed reaction to the hefty number of repeats, saying all we said is that we were going to the play the catalogue we are still going to put on a rock show. Tweedy appeared loose between songs, joking that the next song is from the first Wilco album most of you bought, before launching into Jesus, Etc. from the groups breakthrough Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. His banter also helped Wilco segue between styles, as the sextet moved from the latent, alt-country of its early recordings to the upbeat, infectious moments included on Summerteeth to more avant-garde experimentation of A Ghost is Born and the more somber, reflective Sky Blue Sky. The group also picked up a few additional instruments on occasion, with multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone showing off his banjo skills and Tweedy breaking out his harmonica. On both Saturday and Monday, longtime friend Andrew Bird, who has collaborated with the members of Wilco since his time in Squirrel Nut Zippers, roamed on and off the stage, playing violin and joining Tweedy for Red Eyed & Blues whistling section. At various points, the group has also employed a horn section, which Tweedy joked was part of the worlds fastest growing band.
Perhaps the residencys real surprises were the rearranged versions of both Wilcos early material and it newer songs, particular tracks off Summerteeth like ‘I’m Always in Love’ and ‘Nothing’severgonnastandinmyway(again),’ both of which have been stripped of their trademark synthesizers. Guitarist Nels Cline also shifted his tone to reflect the groups early country-influenced sound on How to Fight Loneliness and played pedal steel on Blue Eyed Soul, Remember the Mountain Bed and Bob Dylan’s 49th Beard.
Wilco will return to the Riviera Theatre tonight and tomorrow to deliver the remaining 30% of the material included on its proper studio recordings. There is no word whether the group will dig deeper into its extensive collection of EPs or the Minus 5 collaboration Down with Wilco.