The Big Wu (and Friends), Roy Wilkins Auditorium, St. Paul, MN- 12/30 & 12/31
The Big Wu hosted a pair of shows in St. Paul, Minnesota on 12/30
and 12/31. During this two day event, dubbed Wu Years Eve, the Wu
not only brought together some stellar musicians to celebrate the New Year but
also worked with its fans to make contributions to a local food bank as well.
All in all, audience members were able to donate 10 tons of food to The
Second Harvest. They were rewarded, in part, by two of the Big Wu's most
ambitious shows yet.
On the 30th, the night started out with the legendary Sam Bush
and his group, followed by the incendiary Derek Trucks Band and then
The Big Wu capped off the night.
The Wu began their set with one of their stronger new
songs, "Makebelievers" and used it as launching pad for some guitar-
oriented improvisation. Following the opener was the jam-heavy
Wu staple, "Red Sky" during which the group worked through
the tight composed sections before demonstrating its ability to "go into the zone."
Sam Bush also joined the band for two songs during this set, on
mandolin and fiddle. The first collaboration was the Wu
folk ballad, "Take the World By Storm," followed by a rip-
roaring version of the bluegrass-tinged "House of Wu." On the
latter song Bush electrified the audience with his fiddle mastery.
The collaborations continued two songs later as the
young guitar master, Derek Trucks, appeared on stage. The band
struck up Freddie King's blues classic, "Come On" with Derek leading
To start out the second set, the Wu brought out
guitarist Chris Castino's father, Dominic to sing lead vocals on two
songs. Castino Sr. had joined the band one year earlier on New Year's
Eve, and swiftly became a fan favorite with his bearing, his silver pompadour
and of course his voice. On this evening he was accompanied by the horn
section from the All Mighty Senators, and they collectively busted
into two early rock n' roll classics, "Blue Suede Shoes" and "Rock
Around the Clock." The evening continued in fine fashion with some upbeat
jamming sandwiched in "Kangaroo" as well as the two-year old
"Jazz 88." The group then closed the set with a roof-raising version of the
On New Year's Eve, the show was opened by the All Mighty Senators
and the classic, still-vital, Little Feat. Oikari, sat in with Feat at the end of their strong set for a soaring jam that even referenced "Dark Star."
The Wu then opened its portion of the show with a funky jam
that evolved into one of the earliest Wu originals,
"Silcanturnitova." Following the funk of "Sil," the band dipped its
hat to its bluegrass roots with the two-step throw down of "Rhode
Island Red." Further into the first set, Paul Barrere of Little Feat
joined the band on stage for a killer jam during the Wu original,
"Shoot the Moon." Widely held as one of the best moments of the two
day affair, Paul Barrere added an exuberant energy
to the song. As the three guitars sonically merged together, the
intensity built exponentially while the crowd roared its
approval. The band capped off an explosive first set with Warren
Boes from the Senators sitting in on guitar for an expansive
version of the Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again".
Opening the next set with "Texas Fireball", the Wu wasted no time
getting down and dirty and going out. They followed with another
solid jam in "Bloodhound" before the funk of "50:1." After a short
countdown to 2002 and an arena-wide toast led by bassist Andy
Miller, the Wu was joined by members of the All Mighty Senators for
a short "Auld Lang Syne" jam that segued into the Earth , Wind and
Fire classic "Shining Star." With Wu guitarists Jason Fladager and
Chris Castino trading off on the lyrics, the festive atmosphere was
complemented by this feel-good classic.
With the Senators departing, the Wu wasted no time getting to the
heavy improvisation that most in attendance craved. They proceeded
to launch into the jam-heavy "SOS" and worked its funky grooves through
a segue into Bob Marley's "Could You Be Loved," and then back into
"SOS" to complete the musical sandwich.
Next was an emotional highlight of the evening for many in
attendance. With the opening piano chords of the John Lennon
classic, "Imagine," the crowd roared its approval and then succumbed
to the silent respect the song deserves. In addition to a sincere arena-wide
lighter tribute, spontaneous massive hug circles formed throughout the floor as well.
The Wu capped the set off with a rousing version of a new song, "Ray
Charles Can See" and thanked the audience for all the donations to
the food drive as well as the love and support the loyal crowd had shown to The
Big Wu in 2001 and in years past. The Big Wu capped off the New
Year's festivities with a rowdy encore of the Cheech and Chong
classic, "Earache My Eye" that had all the members of the All Mighty
Senators sitting in for the raucous fun. The frenzied chaos of the Senators
that ensued left everyone most everyone with a smile.