Monday, September 20, 2010

Watch the miles flying by

I'm freshly back from the United Kingdom, with a lingering desire to keep traveling.  Rock tourism once again gave me the push to book a holiday I might otherwise have waffled on indefinitely.  Thanks to some helpful scheduling, I checked a major item off The List!  As is customary, my trip had a musical component and non-musical component.  In this post, I'll talk about the concerts: Wilco in London, Newcastle, and Glasgow.

London was an afterthought in planning, but I'm grateful it worked out.  Originally I had my eye on the two northern GA shows, which fit in with work and let me visit Scotland.  After researching routes, though, it made the most sense to begin in London.  Since both Paul and I were arriving on the day Wilco was playing, shouldn't we try to attend?  Fortunately, despite the short notice, everything fell into place.  We were treated to an excellent show at Royal Festival Hall, and I would have been bummed to miss the onstage debut of Synthesizer Patel!  Sanjeev Kohli appeared in character with a keytar during "You Never Know," to the confusion and/or delight of all.  Songs like "Poor Places" and "Reservations" sounded great from our seats, as did "How to Fight Loneliness."  The unlikeliest-song-during-which-to-bust-a-string award went to "Some Day Some Morning Sometime," and Jeff had to wait for a new guitar before making the intended transition into a scorching "Laminated Cat."  On a secondary note, we had fun people spotting.  With a comedian like Sanjeev making cameo appearances, Philip Selway opening, the 7 Worlds Collide gang, and friends like Bill Fay, Wilco has amassed many London connections.

Newcastle was a shorter show than London, but the general admission atmosphere was a nice change of pace.  The crowd was enthusiastic, though in terms of makeup and dress it couldn't measure up to the attendees of a certain other show.  The O2 Academy in Newcastle houses multiple venues, and in the secondary theater, the night's headliner was Skeletonwitch.  Hopefully nobody went to the wrong concert by accident.  Jeff did some great impressions of the black metal band Venom, natives of Newcastle; and we got a great version of "Shouldn't Be Ashamed."  Though Jeff's displeasure with a videotaper and underwhelming security caused a bit of friction late in the show, it was another solid night of rock.  And there was one more to go.

My last show was at the Barrowland Ballroom in Glasgow.  The venue has character to spare.  It's an old dance hall on the third floor of a building with wooden stars on the ceiling, and the decor and fonts reminded me of a style I'll call "70's bowling alley chic." The neon sign outside puts all other signs to shame.  Barrowlands crowds have historically been known to chuck bottles of piss at the stage, but happily that element didn't seem to be in attendance for Wilco.  Instead, we got one of the best shows I've seen in awhile.  It was one of those nights when every song seemed to be performed at 110%, and the crowd roared its approval in between.  The show was again shorter than those we'd been seeing in the U.S., but it didn't suffer for it.  There were many highlights, but my favorite moment was recognizing the opening chords of the encore's final song: "Kicking Television" at last!  I was thrilled that Jeff remembered my request, and they were willing to play it.  Later I figured out I last saw "Kicking TV" in May of '05.  As great as it sounded in Glasgow, I wonder why it doesn't appear more.  But if it did, maybe it wouldn't pack such a punch.

It seems likely I won't have another chance to see Wilco until well into 2011.  I'm glad I made this trip across the pond for one last hurrah in 2010.  Then again, I'm always happy to have gone.  I must note that this wasn't my last rock tourism trip of 2010, however.  Stay tuned ... there's some more chipping away at The List to be done in October.

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