Monday, December 26, 2011
However close we get sometimes
The fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth shows of Christmas all belonged to Wilco. In 2008, the band played their legendary five-night Winter Residency in Chicago. In 2011, they did something similar: five shows at increasingly smaller venues. Monday night's show was at the Civic Opera House, home of the Lyric Opera of Chicago, capacity 3,458. By the following Sunday's finale, they were playing the 507-person Lincoln Hall.
Through the generosity and cooperation of others, much refreshing of ticket websites, and pinch of sheer luck, I managed tickets to all five shows. I set up camp at Paul's, and spend a great week in the company of friends. In addition to the shows, I managed to hit all of my top Chicago eateries, the MOCA for Andrew Bird's Sonic Arboretum exhibit, and two movies that show no sign of coming to Madison anytime soon.
The concerts, of course, were the week's main events. They all had their own special features: the faux snowfall and special guests Mavis Staples and Nick Lowe at the Civic Opera House, adding an unplanned (or at least not-on-the-written-setlist) "I'm a Wheel" to the end of the Riv show, a shirtless Josh on cowbell at the Vic, the sweaty rock show vibe of the Metro, the almost-unnerving intimacy of Lincoln Hall. I don't think I'd ever seen Wilco at a 500-person venue. There was plenty of conversation between the band and audience, and the room was quiet enough (at least for most of the first set) to hear the final notes of every song.
Throughout the five shows (spanning seven nights), the band went above and beyond expectations. The shrinking hometown venues were gimmick enough, if they needed one, but they also played ninety-nine different songs over those five evenings. They also bought coffee for the line of fans waiting outside in the cold before the Riviera, Vic, and Metro shows ... although Jeff joked that we'd be billed later.
To sum it all up: this was an excellent way to spend a week in mid-December. Any time Wilco wants to play five shows in Chicago, I'll do my best to be there. Even if/especially if it comes on the heels of a few other shows of interest.
The Eight Shows of Christmas concluded my concertgoing for 2011. Next week, it's time to recap - music, books, and travel - and look ahead to 2012.