Monday, February 22, 2010

Snowflakes break through the atmosphere

Saturday was a quintessential winter day in Wisconsin.  Wilco was playing the Overture Center that night, and I had big plans to make the six-hour drive to and from Michigan to attend their Sunday show as well.  Unfortunately, the weather had other ideas and I was forced to concede in the face of a snowstorm.  Lucky for me, then, that the Madison show was enough fun to tide me over for now.

I welcomed my house guest on Friday night, and Saturday morning we ventured out through the gently falling snow to get P his Culver's fix ... and on to my favorite record store.  From there we headed to the heart of downtown.  After circling the Winter Festival skiiers and snowboarders and ducking into a gourmet cheese shop, we proceeded down State Street.  For the rest of the afternoon we strolled from the fancy popcorn stores to the buried Statue of Liberty on Lake Mendota, and met Tamala and Rob for more shopping, drinks, and dinner.  Then, the show.

Califone opening the evening with an excellent, if extremely short, set.  They sounded great in the expanse of Overture Hall - indeed, Tim Rutili commented on how very far away the top tier was.  But when they had to wrap up after barely half an hour I was extra glad I saw a full show last month at the Hideout.  After more catching up with local and semi-local friends between sets, it was time for Wilco.

I definitely felt more engaged on Saturday than I did the last time the band played the Overture in 2007.  Our seats were closer, which may have been part of it, but things just seemed more energetic.  My favorite songs of the night were the less-often-heard "Nothingsevergonnastandinmyway(again)," "When the Roses Bloom Again," and (gorgeous) "Country Disappeared," not to mention the intricate cover of Buffalo Springfield's "Broken Arrow."  However, even songs that make an appearance at virtually every performance stood out.  It was one of the best "Impossible Germany" versions I've heard in awhile, and the audience responded accordingly - with, dare I say it, near-Spanish levels of appreciation.  (Well, near.)  I enjoyed the singalong to "Jesus, Etc." and appreciated Jeff's lyrical coaching beforehand and miming assistance during the song.

The band seemed to be in good spirits, tossing the occasional Olympic mascot across the stage.  Jeff ribbed Madison's mayor for not giving them a key to the city like Duluth did, but hey - not every city feels the need to pander!   There was faux curling with guitars, and we all learned what a flexatone is - thanks for the demo, Glenn.  This was my first experience with the band's new lighting setup, and I was impressed.  The deep colors, textured backdrop, and flickering "candles" enhanced the show without distracting from the music.

Finally, after 28 songs, Wilco left the stage for the last time.  I may not have made it to Michigan for a double header, but I can't complain that I didn't get enough bang for my buck on night one.  Still, I can't help looking forward to next time.

1 comment:

Iain said...

Nice report my dear - I've just got tickets for three of the shows in Germany in September - might you be in the area?