Chicago is Wilco's city. They have embraced it like the neck of their favorite guitar, the hand of their long lost love, or a box of Lou Malnati's deep dish pizza. After Saturday night's sold out, spectacular evening with the band at the Auditorium theater, it's clear that the city of Chicago has whole heartedly returned that loving embrace. Saturday night's gig was the second of two back-to-back sold out shows. The old theater, a performance hall belonging to Roosevelt University, (I believe) has recently undergone a restoration. It was just amazing - the sort of place suited for operas and symphonies. Elegant wood carvings adorned the interior of the building and gold leaf graced the ceiling and walls as neatly aligned trim. Nothing however, not even gold, would outshine Wilco on this night.
Wilco's set spanned spanned the entire musical output of the band. Old songs from the band's early days, Billy Bragg & Wilco tunes, and an Uncle Tupelo offering were all heard. However, it was the magic of the band's most recent full length, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, that really made the night something special for me. The album could quite possibly be in my top five favorite albums of all time category, though I've never actually taken the time to actually write it down, because I'm sure it would be more like a top 10 or top 25 list. Regardless, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was an amazing accomplishment for Wilco and Sam Jones' black and white, fly on the wall documentary surrounding its creation connects fans with that album like Rattle And Hum did for U2 fans years ago. There is undoubtedly a deeper connection between Wilco fans who have seen the film and the band than ever before.
"Jesus, etc.," "War On War," "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart," and "Poor Places," sent shock waves through the crowd and it seemed no one in the audience could help but sing along. The set lasted over two hours and included two encores. The first, was a three-song excursion. The second, wellÖI lost count after five or so. During that last, extended encore, the band played "California Stars" and invited the crowd to carry the chorus for them, which they did with ease. Pulled from Billy Bragg & Wilco's Mermaid Avenue (1998), it was one of thousands of completed songs Woody Guthrie left after his death. Jeff Tweedy and Jay Bennett, using those lyrics as a foundation, put music to the song and "California Stars" as we know it was born. It's a great story, and the surprise and magic of seeing it performed, not to mention actually singing along with the entire audience, was not lost on anyone.
Most shows I see last an hour, tops. This one lasted over two. I would have stayed all night.
-Photos By Amanda DePalma