Saturday, September 29, 2007

too consumed with this world

I can't tell you why I gravitate toward certain bands and performers time and time again, and why I'm perfectly content experiencing other artists exactly once (if that), with nary an urge to relive the moment. Of course, it comes down to personal taste--and, likely, my elevated threshold for repetition. But until science weighs in on this affliction, all I know is that Midlake can make another three go-rounds in San Francisco to support The Trials of Van Occupanther (my second-favorite album of 2006), and I'd still line up for each one.

Midlake, Great American Music Hall, September 27, 2007: Though I was born in the '70s, my musical knowledge of the decade doesn't extend much further than the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, a Carpenters album, and the ubiquitous, nauseating radio hits of the time. I chalk that up to the fact that my family and I didn't arrive in the States until 1975, and the cultural acclimation and mastery of language were far from immediate. Sorry to go all Hung Huynh on you there--but woo, Top Chef!

Midlake, Great American Music Hall, 9-27-07So though Midlake's sound has undeniable roots in that era, it's fairly fresh to my ears. I actually give them some credit for showing me that music of the '70s is, at the least, tolerable and even inspiring.

The influences game, however, has been played to death, so let's move on to more interesting topics. Fans of the band's multimedia show will be disappointed to learn that the mini movies aren't traveling with them this time; I think I read somewhere that the setup was broken. Also, Julie lamented the absence of the papier-mache cougar head, but fortunately, the band's music is strong enough to sustain these losses.

In place of those props, we enjoyed some musical surprises, which are always preferable in my book. In addition to thoroughly traversing the most recent album, they turned their attention to earlier releases, including the self-released debut EP that some (drunk) guy in the audience claimed to have. Bamnan and Slivercork got its due with "The Jungler" and "Balloon Maker," the first featuring an insistent, primal beat worthy of its name.

Midlake, Great American Music Hall, 9-27-07

As with their Bottom of the Hill show, Midlake reprised "Children of the Ground," which sounded a lot more developed six-plus months on. The song list also included "The Pills Won't Help You Now," lead singer Tim Smith's collaboration with the Chemical Brothers. At the Great American, Midlake imparted the tune with a typically bucolic touch and made the song their own in an interpretation that complements the original composition nicely.

But it was the Van Occupanther tracks that we wanted to hear, and the band delivered, even injecting some new arrangements into the mix. "Van Occupanther" and "Bandits" bookended the show, two fine examples of the album's pastoral, unhurried feel. But in between, we got such crowd-pleasers as "Head Home" (requested by some women standing near me, but as it happened, already on the setlist), "We Gathered in Spring," "Roscoe," and my absolute favorite, "Young Bride."

Midlake, Great American Music Hall, 9-27-07I'm ridiculously suggestible and transparent after a good show, but following this gig, my trigger finger has cued up "Young Bride" at an alarming rate. I singled out the song in my report from Midlake's show in March, but at the Great American, previously unheard aspects jumped out. Of course, that slinky bass line remains the element to beat, but the entire rhythm section distinguished itself at this show.

In fact, this gig reminded me why the Great American Music Hall is my favorite club in the city, even before Eric Pauldino (who Julie thinks looks like Jimi Goodwin, while I prefer to cite his resemblance to Ewan McGregor in Revenge of the Sith) of the band shared his appreciation of the room, even at the expanse of the rooms in Denton, Texas, that had nurtured the group. Bands coming to San Francisco usually aspire to playing the Fillmore, and I can't fault them for that. But as a concert-goer, I look to the Great American Music Hall for the best shows. The sound, the sight lines, the size, the ambiance, even the ticket prices--the Great American has it all. Take any of my preferred bands (Wilco, Arcade Fire, and Beulah, to name just three), and odds are my favorite show I've seen them play was at the Great American.

In Midlake's case, this meant that every nuance of their lush sound came through. For example, they had never struck me as much of a guitar band, but for the first time, I heard charging power chords cutting through the layers of keyboards. At the same time, ephemeral yet essential details, such as those divine harmonies, remained intact. But I'm just being an insufferable nerd; simply, they sounded great.

Midlake, Great American Music Hall, 9-27-07

In addition, I need to mention that the band thanked San Francisco for the support we've lent them. I know the "we love this city" talk is a concert cliche, but as this was the third consecutive show I've attended in the Bay Area where I've heard the same sentiment, I can't help but swell with a little pride.

Maria Taylor and her band opened the show, and the respect and camaraderie flowed between Midlake and her crew, each praising the other from the stage. I saw her former band Azure Ray once and was not impressed at all. In the interim, her work with Crooked Fingers has raised her standing in my book. I wasn't looking forward to her latest incarnation as a solo performer, but she and her crew were, in a word, terrific. Her songs were confident and infectious, and her voice was lovely. The crowd held more then a few fangirls attending expressly to see her, and you could easily figure out why.

Maria Taylor, Great American Music Hall, 9-27-07

See also:
» we like the newness, the newness of all
» top 5 albums of 2006
» in fact, you're fanatical

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

use it tonight

Surely, this sighting deserves at least a mention in the annals of the continued mainstreaming of "indie" rock: Next door to the Warfield, where the New Pornographers played an enthusiastically attended show tonight, the Crazy Horse Gentleman's Club advertised a girl-girl pair named "Sara" and "Teagan." Coincidence? Their salute to Canadian indie rockers? Just plain good marketing? You decide.

New Pornographers, the Warfield, September 17, 2007: Let me state the obvious: Indie music and commercial success are uncomfortable bedfellows. I know that I couch my wavering ardor for bands in terms of venue snobbery, but let's be honest--I often have problems sharing "my" bands with a growing fanbase. With the New Pornographers, however, that's the last thought that comes to mind; their sustained ascendancy, along with Carl Newman's emergence as a top-notch songwriter, is one of my favorite feel-good stories of recent times, and I loved seeing the Warfield fill up with their wide range of fans.

New Pornographers, the Warfield, September 17, 2007

Not that it was always this way. During the show, Carl referred to an earlier gig, and I recalled the same date when Julie first picked up tix for us to this outing. Back in 2002, the New Pornographers, along with My Morning Jacket, filled out an incredible triple bill with Guided by Voices at the Warfield. The show was a little sad because the place wasn't even half full, even by the time Guided by Voices hit the stage; I vividly recall sitting up in the balcony with, at most, a dozen other people and looking down upon the sparsely populated main floor. Even worse, the New Pornographers' sound fell flat in the cavernous room. It's also the show where I had to leave around 12:30 or so because I was so exhausted, though GBV were still slogging on at that point. Sometimes you just have to call it a night.

No such endurance test this time out, however. Even after two openers, the crowd bopped along boisterously to the New Pornographers' mix of peppy, catchy, and at times anthemic songs from the band's three albums. The new one, Challengers, is a hair mellower than their earlier works, and the band jokingly acknowledged it at one point when they tried to prep us for the self-proclaimed power ballad. Ever tongue in cheek, though, their warning quickly degenerated into a semi-paean to--could there any other Bay Area icon?--Journey. I seem to recall the New Pornographers have gone down this road before, but Carl cut them off this time. Still, extra points go to Neko for referencing the Journey scarab and Dr. Pepper lipgloss during this interlude.

New Pornographers, the Warfield, September 17, 2007

My favorite songs on Challenger have surprisingly turned out to be Dan Bejar's tunes, so it was great to see him intermittently drop in to perform his tracks. He was nowhere as drunk as he was at the Bimbo's shows, but it didn't take long for the beer bottles to accompany him to the stage. In other lineup news, it looks like Kathryn Calder is now a permanent addition, but I had no idea that Jon Wurster was occupying the drummer's seat.

New Pornographers, the Warfield, September 17, 2007

If I have any complaint about the show is that the New Pornographers' sound tends to favor treble, so some of the vocals fell on the shrill side at the Warfield. It was especially noticeable whenever Neko took the lead, as her warm, rich tones contrasted sharply with the angular assault on other songs. I wonder if, say, the Fillmore would've treated them better in this regard.

Overall, though, it was great to see San Francisco lap up this great show and to receive some love from the musicians themselves, who acknowledged that we were some of their earliest supporters, especially compared to "bullshit cities" such as Louisville and Cleveland (Carl's characterizations, not mine). If I ruled the world, the New Pornographers would be the No. 1 pop band in the land, but since I don't, it's not bad knowing that they command at least a small fiefdom out here.

New Pornographers, the Warfield, September 17, 2007

Fancey, fronted by the New Pornographers' own Todd Fancey, was the first opener. He took lead vocals and guitars, while three other people (two girls and guy) rounded out the group. They bear all the signs you'd expect from a New Pornographers-affiliated band (pop hooks, harmonies), but I can't say they were particularly memorable.

The second opener was Lavender Diamond from Los Angeles. If you go by appearances, they're one of the more incongruous mix of individuals you might expect (the indie rocker, the older guy, the hippie, the one from the drum circle), but somehow, their sound worked--for the most part. It probably helped that the singer's voice was so pretty. The lyrics are not groundbreaking, and they lost me at times with their talk of sunny days and flowers, but by the end, I was squarely on their side.

Lavender Diamond, the Warfield, Sept. 17, 2007

Oh, and to conclude this report, I need to mention that we saw Jim Eno of Spoon watching from the side of the stage; I think he even brought out some beers to the group toward the end of the show. And before the gig, we spotted in the crowd Carl Newman with his new bride taking in Fancey's set.

See also:
» listening for too long to one song
» salvation holdout central

Monday, September 17, 2007

his name it did resound

I sometimes worry about getting jaded about Largo; this is not a place I want to take for granted. But if the breathless anticipation and incessant giggling bursting forth from Evonne and myself when we spotted David Rawlings wandering around before Saturday's Jon Brion show are any indication, we'll continue to line up as needed for a while to come.

Jon Brion, Largo, September 8, 2007: The Foghat jacket was history, but remnants of Friday night lingered. Namely, after Jon's usual instrumental opening, he immediately asked for requests. A voice I knew (thanks, T!) was the first out of the gate with a suggestion I've wanted to hear forever: Teenage Fanclub. Even better, Jon obliged with a mournful version of "Alcoholiday" drenched in harmonica and celeste. Though he couldn't remember most of the lyrics, he hit the important ones ("Baby, I've been fucked already") and, in the process, gave me that fuzzy feeling you get when you find out an artist you really like really likes another artist you really like.

After "I Believe She's Lying," the request for "She May Call You Up Tonight" took Jon to the drums for a song build, which at the very least promised us the rawk would be brought, no "Croatia" request necessary. But only the electric guitar remained for the next couple of tunes, including a Les Paul-style treatment of "Sexy Sadie." Jon returned to the piano and familiar territory for the maudlin "Trial and Error," trailed by an exuberant "I'm on a Roll with You."

At the back, I couldn't hear the requests so well, but we got a hint of the next selection from Jon's repetition of a certain beat on the piano keys. I didn't want to believe my ears at first, even after Jon shifted to the drums to bang out that familiar rhythm, but it could be only one song. Jon dove head first into "Once in a Lifetime," sprinkling some of David Byrne's gesticulations from the music video into his performance, as playing allowed. As if that wasn't enough, he picked up an acoustic guitar for the outro and went Dylan on us ("This is not your beautiful home!"). It was only natural, then, that he'd segue into his own sometime Dylan tribute, "Knock Yourself Out."

Jon provided the next request, "Everytime We Say Goodbye," working up a lengthy, esoteric instrumental build before the vocals kicked in. But this classical turn evaporated in a medley of children's favorites, concluding with a heavy, distorted take on Kermit the Frog's most famous tune.

The Billy Joel requests had started early in the night, but now they drew to their climax, with one guy in the back yelling out for "any Billy Joel you can play." I guess this was the phrasing that finally got under Jon's skin because he declared it was "time to shut you down" and set out to get the last laugh. To Jon's credit, I can safely say that he spared us some of his Billy Joel repertoire (I've heard him do "Piano Man" before), so we were shown a modicum of mercy that night. In addition, Jon bestowed one more item upon the requester: a flip of the bird.

The medley unleashed a run through some cheesy but irresistible singalongs, including "Eye of the Fucking Tiger," as dictated by Jon; my own request for "Heart of Glass," for which we shamefully forgot about 90 percent of the lyrics; and "Hava Nagilah." For the last, Jon even donned the Viking helmet for the first time ever and stroked the pelt atop the piano a little, much to the audience's delight.

"Ain't Misbehavin'" took on an old-timey feel, thanks to Scott in the soundbooth and the layer of static he added over Jon's playing. "Pulling Mussels from the Shell" also tipped its hat to past masters, but that was mostly Jon's doing, with some help from audience call-outs.

The requests weren't quite hitting the spot for Jon, so it was Scott back to the rescue, piping in Larry Craig's testimony once again, then dropping some Snoop Dogg into the mix, to which Jon played along for a stretch. For the final number of the first set, Jon stood at the mic for a while, inviting our ideas, but ultimately holding out the threat of a "spacey cosmic downer." The jam won out, as Jon unleashed "You Made the Girl." I'm not a fan of this song, but it was hard not to feel his emotion as he threw his weight against the amp and the piano while forcing out every available note.

After a well-deserved break, Jon wasted no time in drafting a couple of friends: Benmont Tench and David Rawlings, one of my favorite recent additions to the Largo stable. Dylan provided the inaugural touchstone for, first, David on vocals by himself, then David and Jon together, sharing a microphone.

The trio happily made room for Sara and Sean Watkins, and at this point, Jon just about slid into the background. Sara assumed most of the vocal duties, though David took the reigns for "Queen Jane Approximately." David also eased over to the drums for "Any Old Time," but Evonne reports that when the spotlight landed on him, he shook his head and urged it away.

We had heard talk of Benmont's hidden talents, but we finally saw it for ourselves when, at an impasse, the group hit on a plan. We watched as Benmont stood up from the piano and slid on a bass guitar, while Jon landed on drums, and David stepped up on lead guitar. Sara and Benmont sang it, and we were all with them for the Jackson 5.

Benmont remained on bass for several numbers, including David's two Chuck Berry tunes. I loved David's semi-ironic vote of confidence before "30 Days," when he said somewhat under his breath, "This is going to be awesome," but you'd have to be a cold-hearted bastard to not join the rest of the room in yelling the chorus, even if (as in my case) you'd never heard the song before. Also, you could practically see the wheels turning in David's head as he tried to remember all the words to "No Money Down" but no matter--it was a hoot. And "John Wesley Harding" featured what might be one of my favorite Jon Brion virtuoso displays ever: a harmonica and tambourine solo, accomplished while clutching a pint of Guinness. Bravo! However, he took a more customary stance for the final number, "My Baby Left Me," before bidding us adieu.

Set 1
--I Believe She's Lying
--She May Call You Up Tonight
--Everybody's Gotta Learn Sometime
--Sexy Sadie [Les Paul style]
--Trial and Error
--I'm on a Roll with You
--Once in a Lifetime [+ Dylan mashup]
--Knock Yourself Out
--Everytime We Say Goodbye
--Sesame Street theme
--Mr. Rogers Neighborhood theme
--It's Not Easy Being Green
--It's Still Rock & Roll to Me/Only the Good Die Young/Just the Way You Are/She's Got a Way
--Eye of the Tiger
--Heart of Glass
--Hava Nagila
--Ain't Misbehavin'
--Pulling Mussels from the Shell [via Fats Waller]
--funky instrumental
--You Made the Girl

Set 2
--Copper Kettle [vocals = David] *
--I'll Keep It with Mine [vocals = Jon + David] *
--Freight Train [vocals = Sara] **
--Queen Jane Approximately [vocals = David] **
--Any Old Time [vocals = Sara] **
--Hop High My Lulu Girl [vocals = Sara] **
--I Want You Back [vocals = Sarah + Benmont] **
--30 Days [vocals = David] **
--No Money Down [vocals = David] **
--John Wesley Harding [vocals = David] **
--Hey Mona/Not Fade Away [vocals = Benmont] **
--My Baby Left Me **

* = with David Rawlings and Benmont Tench
** = with David Rawlings, Benmont Tench, and Sara and Sean Watkins

See also:
» no one alerted you
» here's a working model

Saturday, September 15, 2007

no one alerted you

My Largo reservation mojo may have momentarily dried up, as I couldn't snag a table for either of Jon Brion's September shows. Fortunately, thanks to my forgiving freelance schedule and my love of lining up early, I made it in just fine.

Jon Brion, Largo, September 7, 2007: For the first time in a while, I attended this Jon Brion show by myself. It's far from a tragedy, but I've been so fortunate in sharing my musical memories lately that it's a reminder of another way in which I've become spoiled over the last several years.

My favorite perch at the back of the room is not a hardship post, but it's a trade-off. For one, you don't get your ears blown out by the tunes blaring out over the speakers, but you also miss some of the nuances of the stage, both in terms of performer interaction and overall spectacle. So I didn't see for myself Bobb Bruno's typical setup of fuzzy friends and the electronic drum kit, but as I had already spotted him earlier, I knew what was coming.

However, you needn't be anywhere near the stage to spot the huge bunny head bobbing through the crowd--to the strains of Wilco's "Outtasite (Outta Mind)," no less--as Bobb took the stage. Bobb followed through with his customary mix of electronic drums, played against ambient sounds as well as a rocking segment. If I knew how to describe it any other terms, I would, but that's all you're going to get for now.

Jon followed shortly after in a jacket so alarming that it almost made you disregard his lengthening locks; also, I think the coat was a little too small for him, as the sleeves didn't quite hit the wrists as they should (I heart Tim Gunn). This jacket would provide fodder for another segment of the show, but all in due time.

Jon opened with two distinct instrumental piano passages: the first a somber, abstract piece that at the beginning reminded me of "Trouble" before staking out its own territory, and the second, a jazzy, slightly more upbeat number.

That may have been the last juncture in the evening that Jon had any idea what he was doing, as he immediately declared that he was "more clueless than ever" and asked for requests. "Same Thing" served as the kickoff, as it has many a show, though with slightly different vocal phrasing and maybe a bum note somewhere in the fold.

Jon left the piano and picked up an acoustic guitar and a harmonica for "Meaningless." The setup provided the perfect bridge to "Knock Yourself Out," both requests.

Around this point, I threw in my old standby suggestion when I want to see Jon move to the drums and, if we're lucky, kick out the jams, which is how we got "Croatia," once again at a fairly languid pace. Scott in the soundbooth added to the effort by piping in the Larry Craig recording, but the guitar proved to be the catalyst for the song's awakening; Jon even suffered a broken string in the process.

The rockers took hold--at least momentarily--as Jon built up a propulsive "Girl I Knew" that went through all sorts of mutations before sidling into the finish. Both "Hook Line and Sinker" and "Love of My Life So Far" kept him on electric guitar and, thus, the livelier end of the spectrum.

On the heels of the Procol Harum request came a call for Foghat and, with it--finally--an explanation of the jacket, which apparently once belonged to the bass player of that same band, who inspired one of the many memorable segments of Yo La Tengo's "Sugarcube" video (Foghat Rule: Your fourth album must be double live). Jon was turned on to it by someone who saw it for sale on the Internet, and the rest is history.

It was back to the piano for a couple of songs, including a new one he tried out back in July. "Didn't Think It Would Turn Out Bad" got a relatively rare airing, and it sounded great built up; Jon dropped in its morphing outro so casually that it's easy to forget how much ground he covered in his selections. He closed out the first set with a Beatles track, and I don't hesitate to say that Eric Clapton has nothing on Jon.

Jon launched the second set with a snippet of "obscure Chris Stamey" before inviting Benmont Tench to the stage. I think it was Benmont's suggestion to play "Slow Down," and he emerged as the force of nature, pounding on the piano and celeste keys and moving Jon to yell, "You can't stop!"

Two became three with the addition of Fiona Apple, who ran through a number of her usual standards. Jon stepped up to the mic to contribute vocals for "Tonight You Belong to Me," and you could even call "Anything Goes" a duet by the time they were through. She left rather abruptly since she didn't know the words to "They Can't Take That Away from Me," but Jon handled those duties with aplomb. He was less convincing on "Sealed with a Kiss," but Benmont took up the slack.

This moved Jon to do something he claims he never does: He asked for a chair so that he could sit back and watch a concert--Benmont's. Of course, he remained on guitar, but the spotlight was once more on (not literally) Benmont, who gave us a seamless Bo Diddley/Buddy Holly medley and a half-time version of "I Wanna Be Sedated." There was some discussion over the next song, which required them to call back Fiona. I don't know what they decided on, only that it moved Jon to express his delight at the pairing in several ways: arms in the air or clutching his chest, eyes closed in ecstasy. The classics reigned through the end, when Jon belted out "One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)" to send us into the night.

Set 1
--Bobb Bruno opener

--jazzy piano
--Same Thing
--Knock Yourself Out
--Girl I Knew
--Hook Line and Sinker
--Love of My Life So Far
--Shine On Brightly
--Eternal Sunshine Theme
--new song ("Another trying day...")
--Didn't Think It Would Turn Out Bad/Everything Works Out if You Let It/Peter Gunn/Police on My Back
--While My Guitar Gently Weeps

Set 2
--Slow Down *
--Everyday [vox = Fiona] **
--Tonight You Belong to Me [vox = Fiona] **
--Blue Skies [vox = Fiona] **
--Anything Goes [vox = Jon + Fiona] **
--They Can't Take That Away from Me *
--Sealed with a Kiss [vox = Benmont] *
--Hey Mona/Not Fade Away [vox = Benmont] *
--I Wanna Be Sedated [vox = Benmont] *
--??? [vox = Benmont + Fiona] **
--One for My Baby (and One More for the Road) *

* = with Benmont Tench
** = with Benmont Tench and Fiona Apple

See also:
» wouldn't have it any other way
» his name it did resound

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

i have no idea how this happens

Originally, only Wilco's Berkeley and Los Angeles dates were on the docket, but then a great rate to Seattle popped up, which pretty much sewed up Portland too. Along the way, Judy went behind my back to lure me to Vancouver (thanks!), and Paul magically summoned up awesome seats for Santa Barbara. After all that, Denver didn't seem so outlandish. Totally justified, right?

Wilco, Fillmore Auditorium, Sept. 1-2, 2007Wilco, Fillmore Auditorium, Sept. 1-2, 2007: I love a multiple-night stand by a good band, so one by my favorite group is golden, and it's something Wilco doesn't do often--especially in a general admission venue--these days. Never mind that the Fillmore Auditorium in Denver bears little resemblance to my beloved Fillmore (the original) in San Francisco; it was somewhat of a relief to be in a club setting again after all those outdoors shows.

But at the start, the signs were ominous. We tramped in from the hot, humid pavement to a hot, humid club seemingly crammed with drunken assholes who were either whooping inappropriately or trying to cop a feel. OK, that's a broad generalization based on two obnoxious individuals in the front row, and in the case of the loudmouth, several other audience members were united in trying to get him to shut the fuck up. Richard Swift in his opening set was also subject to the asshole's ridiculous outbursts, but he handled him pretty well.

By the time Wilco took the stage, order--or at least what passes as such at a typical rock show--had been restored, and we could comfortably fix our attention on the band. For this first outing, we heard a couple of rarer tracks: "Radio Cure," the song that was, for me, the earliest indicator of the transformations Nels would wrought not only to Wilco's back catalog but eventually to gestating titles as well; and "How to Fight Loneliness," which hasn't excited me in a while, but with its seductive beat, it made for a great transition into "Spiders" tonight.

Wilco, Fillmore Auditorium, Sept. 1-2, 2007

I did catch a Wilco double-header in May, and there wasn't a whole lot of variation. However, I'm not sure it counts, as it wasn't for an American audience, and it was early in the tour. Regardless, I'm open to possibilities, even the confounding ones.

Wilco, Fillmore Auditorium, Sept. 1-2, 2007

My concerns proved groundless, as the band kicked out a keen complement to the first night's show, with surprises in the setlist and from the players themselves. The requisite showcase tracks were further bolstered by the thinner but more dedicated crowd. Remember that "Impossible Germany" veneration I threatened in the first post of this tour? You're getting it now because the version tonight was one for the ages; I don't know if it had to do with Nels's recovery, but his guitarwork exceeded its typical elegance at the Fillmore Auditorium; I could've ridden that melody back to San Francisco, I think. The best part? Even when Nels finishes his solo, you still have the payload of Jeff and Pat's interplay awaiting.

Wilco, Fillmore Auditorium, Sept. 1-2, 2007

Nels also took the (prat)fall twice in the show: first at the end of "Walken," when he fell off his stool, then during "Spiders" when he jumped from his table of implements. The drop to the stage isn't exactly precipitous, but his descent was complicated by the musical cue he had to hit between flight and landing. Thus, once again, we found Nels on his back as he and the band played on. From our side of the stage, all we could see were a pair of steel-toed boots and stripey socks sticking out behind the monitors, but any resemblance to the Wicked Witch of the West stopped there.

The lesser played "What Light" (but no "Either Way" for either show) made the cut tonight, and Being There representation fell to "Forget the Flowers" and "Red-Eyed and Blue/I Got You." Even the previous two albums yielded unexpected choices in "Company in My Back" and "Poor Places/Reservations."

Wilco, Fillmore Auditorium, Sept. 1-2, 2007

One of the bigger musical twists of the night came from an unexpected source: Mermaid Avenue. "Hesitating Beauty" is not a personal favorite, and at one point, it was the tune most likely to make me grit my teeth. But Nels went to town on this one, at first staying faithful to the song's twangy flavor but adding a layer of his patented frenzied fretwork and maybe forging a new genre (noisefolk?) in the process. Even the rest of the band was moved enough to look at him in astonishment, almost as if hearing him for the first time.

"California Stars" brought out departing openers Richard Swift and his right-hand man Casey Foubert. This effortless tune was a good match for the two players, especially Casey, who (with some encouragement) dashed off the best adaptation of the melody that I heard on the tour (sorry, Bill Frisell and Peter Buck). The performance capped off a great two-night stretch for Richard and Casey; they sounded amazing at the Fillmore, much more so than they did at any of the big outdoor venues on the rest of this tour. The second night, they even tried a brand-new song.

Wilco, Fillmore Auditorium, Sept. 1-2, 2007

I'm home now for a few days, and this blog will eventually return to concert reports by bands other than Wilco or that other guy I like so much, though not immediately. In fact, September should be pretty good around these parts, so keep checking back. And, as always, thanks for reading.

See also:
» back in your old neighborhood
» a gift given accidentally
» don't let anyone say it's wrong
» much too busy to worry
» waiting for a postcard
» i wasn't that night