Thursday, August 14, 2008

Wilco @McCarren Pool, Aug. 13th

It had been a year and a day since the last time I came to McCarren Pool for a gig. I'm not the biggest fan of this venue -- oftentimes, I feel the sound can get muddled between the acoustics of the concrete and the din of the hipsters. However, for tonight's show, Wilco ought to pay their sound guys beaucoup bucks because they sounded great. Just like the green jacket that lead singer Jeff Tweedy sported, the band was sharp and played like the professionals that they are, albeit kind of a safe set, if you ask me.

Now, don't get me wrong -- I LOVE Wilco, especially after winning a contest to see them in Chicago six months ago. And prior to that, I saw them up close and personal the last time they played Brooklyn, at the intimate Warsaw. So, perhaps my slight feeling of ennui had to do with my socks being knocked off by the rarities dropped on us at those two prior gigs, and not much to drool at tonight. Or maybe a symptom of having now seen them 4 times in the last year promoting Sky Blue Sky. Or maybe choosing to stand on the side of the stage away from the guitar hero blazes of Nels Cline (although Pat Sansone's antics were pretty damn amusing). Today I even got McCarren Pool early and managed to secure a spot right up front on the rail. But despite such a great position, somehow the performance, while fun and exciting as usual, felt like it was missing something and merely ranked a solid from me. Mind you, a Wilco solid does blow most other bands out of the water, however...

Perhaps I just prefer the rumpled, denim jacket look -- when the boys seemed looser and freer while rocking out. That green jacket, while a fine garment, I'm sure, seemed to lend an element of formality that I've never really encountered before with Wilco. They usually have such a carefree sense to them that translates into their playing. Part of me even missed Nels' red pants.

Anyway, I look forward to the next time they come to town, with new songs in hand.

Here are the guys playing "Pieholden Sweet" from Summerteeth:

My Flickr set here.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Aimee Mann @Music Hall of Williamsburg, Aug. 1st

Last Friday, I met up with Ste & Lora, Julie1 and Wawa (man, it had been a long time since I last saw him) for an evening featuring the ever-so-droll Aimee Mann at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. Much like my prior visit to the venue, we preceded the concert with some drinks and greasy 'cue from Fette Sau, which may have somewhat dulled our abilities to pay attention. This was my third time seeing Ms. Mann (first at St. Ann's Warehouse and then at Town Hall), and it was the closest I had ever been to the blonde sliver of cool, but despite our proximity to the stage and the intimacy of the venue, I was more distracted by the people surrounding me than ever before.

I am by no means an ardent fan of Ms. Mann, but I have always appreciated the plaintive quality of her songs dealing with regret, heartbreak, relationships, and so forth. Her music may not be the most stirring but it is consistent in its lyricism and cleverness. I have a few of her albums and find that even when I'm not up to date with her catalogue, her shows are quite enjoyable for her casual banter (although how many times must we hear her bash on Phil Collins winning the Oscar over her for his Tarzan song over "Save Me?") and skilled musicianship. She does not overindulge and seems to connect with her audience quite well. Even though at first I found the group of large men behind me singing along every word kinda off key a nuisance, by the end of the show, Ms. Mann found a way to bring them into the fold, when she stumbled on the words for an audience request, and the men helped her out, to which she responded with something like, "Who knew my music could be like a German drinking chorus?"

Here is a good chunk of her probably most well-known solo song "Save Me" (before security tapped me on the shoulder to stop recording):