Thursday, May 8, 2008

Wilco @The Riviera, Feb. 16th

(Sorry it's been so friggin' long since I should have posted this review! Today, a friend sent me the bootleg of this show, which I'm listening to now, and it has reminded me how awesome it was to be there, and that I should POST! Thanks, M.!)

Sometime in early February I was IMing with Wawa about the latest Wilco contest -- a pair of tickets to one of their sold-out 5-night residency at their hometown Riviera Theatre during which they supposedly would cover a majority of songs off all their albums. He declined to enter since he had a wedding that President's Day Weekend, but I figured I had no real plans, so why not? Well, lo and behold, on Valentine's Day, Thursday the 14th, I got a call from Wilco's management that I had won the contest, and would I be able to join them in Chicago two days from then? You betcha!

For the rest of that afternoon, I scrambled to find someone to share in my winnings -- people either were already committed to plans or didn't quite jump at the idea of booking a last minute plane ticket to Chicago. Luckily for me and for my old roommate Fer, we both had enough frequent flyer miles to merit a cheap ticket each. So we packed our bags and off we went the very next day!

We got put up in a nice room at the Hard Rock Hotel in Downtown Chicago, and this was our spectacular view:

After a dinner of Chicago-style deep dish pizza, we cabbed our way up to the theater, and were slightly dismayed to find a line already blocks long emanating from the entrance in the freezing cold Chicago temps. I decided to go into the lobby and talk to security and the management, and explained that I had won the contest and was supposed to pick up tickets up front, and miraculously, they told me and Fer to wait right there indoors and to wait for the lady with the guest list. Cool beans! I started getting a little antsy as doors opened, and people streamed by, and the guest list lady was still nowhere to be found. The floor was general admission, and I could sense my chances of being up front like I had been for the last time I saw Wilco diminishing rapidly. Finally she showed up, and instead of handing us tickets, gave us those cool stickers that you see guest list people often wearing:

Fer and I headed towards the floor, but the usher directed us to go upstairs. Crap! I didn't want to be stuck up in the mezzanine. But then the next usher upstairs directed us to go to the very front and center of the mezzanine. Sweet! It was a perfect view of the stage, and was wonderful placement acoustically-speaking, and we were seated as opposed to dealing with the standing crowd below us.

The show itself was utterly amazing. It clocked out at just over 2-1/2 hours, and as promised, the setlist drew from all of Wilco's albums, with about 2/3 of it coming from pre-Yankee Hotel Foxtrot songs, which was good, since the last few times I had seen them, they had focused on their latest release, Sky Blue Sky. From my ideal seat, I was able to record eight of their selections, including the ultra-rare "Dash 7" for which violinist Andrew Bird joined them:

The guys, as always, were a pleasure to watch, and you could tell that Jeff Tweedy was having a good time playing to the folks of Chicago who supported each song, rarity or not, with loud roars. In fact, after the show seemed to be over, the crowd refused to budge and kept chanting for another encore even after the house lights and the back curtain went up and the roadies started putting equipment away. The guys came out after a good amount of coaxing and treated us with a final encore of two more songs, "ELT" and "Hoodoo Voodoo." I felt so happy!

As part of my prize, I also got hooked up with a bunch of merchandise, including a limited edition poster screened specifically for that night. It's the second one from the left:

The next day, I received a pair of tickets in the second row by a goal for the Chicago Blackhawks hockey game, and some merchandise for them as well. I wore this dorky baseball cap, which was a good move because the die-hard Chicago fans around me immediately accepted me as one of their own, and high-fived me as their Hawks skated to victory. I had never had such great seats before, and got to see everything mega-close-up:

including a FIGHT!!! Funny thing is that my Wilco weekend didn't end the night before; the bassist, John Stirratt participated during one of the challenges during an intermission:

How random was that?

All in all, it was a super-amazing weekend, including visits with an old friend and Fer's family, and plenty of good eats:

A Chicago-style dog at the airport. For breakfast. It doesn't get any classier than that, folks!

I'm looking forward to seeing them again this summer at McCarren Pool on August 13th.

No comments: