According to my journals and fading memory, last night’s performance at Cincinnati’s Aronoff Center was my tenth Wilco show going all the way back to 1997*. The band has changed styles and lineups a half dozen times over that period, but they can always be relied upon to put on a great live show.
The Aronoff Center is an amazing venue and certainly tops the other local places Wilco has played. It’s clean, smoke-free, and has pristine sound. I consider myself lucky to have seen the band perform there. Sure, there’s something to be said for having seen Wilco at Ripley’s (now a Chipotle) and Bogart’s, but I’ll take fresh and clean over grungy and smoky any day. I guess I’m getting old.
As far as the show itself goes, I was very happy with the song selection. They played eight songs from Sky Blue Sky, so I got to hear a lot of songs I’d never heard live before. Just about every single one of the new songs sounded better in a live setting than on disc. Sky Blue Sky is a fine CD, but it’s the first Wilco release that I struggled with. I didn’t enjoy it until I watched Shake It Off, the 45 minute documentary that came with the Sky Blue Sky deluxe edition. In a live setting, “Impossible Germany” and “Walken” were both impressive, but “What Light” was my personal favorite of the new songs. It was so much better live that it took me awhile to even recognize it. I thought it was a cover at first.
Other highlights included “Handshake Drugs”, “I’m The Man Who Loves You”, and a strange version of “Via Chicago” that exploded into a furious storm of feedback and percussion towards the end. All the noise and the flickering lights almost fooled me into believing I was in a thunderstorm. I don’t think “Via Chicago” is a song that needs that kind of embellishment, but it was still cool to witness.
Of course, my personal highlight of the night was “Poor Places”. I love that song and it’s one I’ve rarely heard live. It’s just beautiful. I’m not one for taking crappy digital movies with my camera, but I wish I could relive the moment in the song when Jeff Tweedy sings:
it makes no difference to me
how they cried all over overseas
when it’s hot in the poor places tonight
I’m not going outside
I love that part. It’s not necessarily the lyrics; something happens to the music right there that gets me every time. I don’t understand it. All I know is that I’ll spend $42.60 any night of the year to feel it.
There weren’t any overwhelming negatives to my concert experience. I wish I had been able to catch Low’s opening set, but I didn’t time things very well. I also wanted to punch a guy who was dancing like he was at a Phish show (you know, that hippie dance), but then I remembered that people express their enjoyment in different ways. I let him off with a warning. Other than those two slight inconveniences, I had a wonderful time.
Here’s a picture of the poster I picked up at the show:
* – I’m counting three Jeff Tweedy solo shows in that total. Ten sounds much better than seven.