Saturday, April 22, 2006

Wilco - Ted Leo/ Rx - OK Go - 4/20/06 - Brown Univ.

So Thursday night, my friend and I went to see my favorite band of all time, Wilco and a few other bands over at Brown University in Providence. And I will start off by saying, despite being in a hockey rink, this was the best of the three (two full band) Wilco shows I have been to.

The night started at around 8:30 when OK Go came on, a sort of pop/indie/punk band that wasn't very good. Besides the fact that the songs weren't very good and the sound was even worse, the lead singer was acting like a prick, strutting around the stage and making ridiculous remarks like he was Mick Jagger or something. At one point he declared "Um...last time I was at uh, Brown, I was um...drunk" this received a swell of cheers and squeals from the frat boys but alas, their eight song set was over and it was time for the band to leave. Before they left though, they did their "famous" dance routine, from their latest music video which was admittedly, hilarious. A few Brown students who knew the dance came on stage and did it with them. If you haven't seen the video, you can check it out here: YouTube.

Next up was Ted Leo and the Pharmacists. A band that I am slightly familiar with. Ted was pretty good but like the band before him was suffering from some big sound issues. His guitar was a little to quiet and his voice was completely drowned out by the rest of the band. Beyond that Ted has some great pop/punk type songs. I was very impressed with his ability to play some pretty complicated rhythms and sing at the same time. His band was very tight too, the drummer was really going at it and the bassist was a great player as well. I recognized a good deal of the songs so I'm pretty sure the majority of his set came from Shake the Sheets and Tyranny of Distance, the only two Ted Leo albums I have heard. He also played one new song which was pretty catchy, but in no way a departure from his signature indie-pop (with a hint of punk) sound. From what I can tell, Ted might be the nicest guy in the world, he seemed to be in a good mood as he was very talky and appreciative of the crowd.

After one bad and one good opener, 10:30 rolled by, and it was Wilco time. The band came on and busted right into "A Future Age" a beautiful song off of their third album Summerteeth (which I am actually listening to right now) that is a major rarity. The song has only been played live 27 times, and most of those times were at Jeff Tweedy solo shows so to hear it at a college show, full band, as a set opener, was a real treat. From that moment on, you could tell that this was going to be a spectacular show. The band then played some amazing versions of some of their best songs including highlights from all of their albums (except their debut A.M.). Highlights of the set included almost all of the tracks off of A Ghost is Born: "At Least That's What You Said," "Hell is Chrome," "Theologians," "Hummingbird," "Spiders," and "Handshake Drugs" were all absolutely spellbinding. The guitar work on almost all of those tunes from Jeff and more notably guitarist Nels Cline is just mind blowing. During some parts Nels was playing his Fender Jazzmaster with a power drill and some really interesting sounds were coming out. His jazzy little licks on "Handshake Drugs" really transform that song into a mediocre song (for Wilco at least) into an truly amazing live tune. The band also played one new song, "Walken," a country-rocker that recalls some of the bands earlier work. While it wasn't that great of the song, it was a fun rocker, I just hope it doesn't show up on their new album (which right now is slated for a Spring '07 release). The band also played some highlights from its back catalogue including "Via Chicago" (complete with a beautiful noise-jam), "Forget the Flowers," "War on War," and "I'm Always in Love." Throughout the course of the show Jeff seemed to be in a great mood, and he was not as talkative as usual (which I have learned means that the show is going above average). The crowd, which was mostly Brown U. college kids, seemed very impressed with Wilco's show even thought they may not have been to familar with the material. To my surprise there was very little pot at the show (I say this only because it was 4/20). It was great to hear the crowd scream chants of "WILCO WILCO WILCO" after every set break, I think there were definitely some Wilco converts in the crowd that night. After a grueling set, the band closed their main set (which ran a full 80 minutes) with "The Late Greats," a fun rocker from A Ghost is Born.

After a quick break the band came out for their first encore into what Jeff called the "arena rock portion of the show" which featured "Heavy Metal Drummer," "Kingpin" (which featured the awkward "livin' in...Providence" lyric). After those two songs, we got a bit of a surprise, a trio of Brown horn players (trombone, sax, and trumpet) came out for two songs and played the horn parts on "Monday" and "I'm the Man Who Loves You." Which were both incredible. After that the band took another break and finally came out for one final encore playing "Misunderstood" (one of my favorite Wilco songs both live and on record, this time it featured 32 "Nothings" impressive, but not as good as the 40 we had in June at Boston U.) and finally "I'm A Wheel" which saw guitarist/keyboard player Pat Sansone's signature windmills.

Overall this was an amazing show, the sound problems of the first two bands seemed to dissipate when Wilco came on. The band was so incredibly tight that the setlist (which hasn't really changed much since the band starting touring on A Ghost is Born in spring of 2004) wasn't really an issue at all. The band is continuously updating the songs so that each show is a fresh experience, even for the seasoned Wilco fan. So far this was the best concert I've seen this year and it has really affirmed my beliefs that Wilco is the best band out there right now.

For those who are interested here Wilco's set list:

In a Future Age
I am Trying to Break Your Heart
A Shot in the Arm
At Least that's What You Said
Hell is Chrome
Handshake Drugs
War on War
Jesus, etc
Via Chicago
Forget the Flowers
I'm Always in Love
The Late Greats
Heavy Metal Drummer
I'm the Man Who Loves You (w/Brown U. horns)
Monday (w/Brown U. horns)
I'm a Wheel


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