Trust the Gene Genie

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Disposable Dixie cup drinking

I've been trying to get this up since last weekend.

In short, the Wilco show was incredible. There aren't many bands that I've seen in concert that reproduce the feel and sound of their albums and music live as well as Wilco. The arrangements, the orchestrations, the timing, the musicianship -- it's all amazingly put-together. They just sound good in concert. (You can click on the photos to make 'em big.)

So let's take it from the top.

The show, as you know, was in Berkeley, a solid three hours from Redding. It was general admission so we figured if we got there an hour early -- 6:30ish -- we'd have a chance at getting pretty good seats. I mean this was Wilco, not U2, after all.

Becky's aunt and uncle had graciously offered to take the girls, Concord being only 20 minutes or so from Berkeley. We got to their place about 4 and had a chance to chat and eat. Never underestimate the kindness of relatives -- they had just returned home the day before from a two-week sojourn to Idaho. They really were very generous.

Anyway, we got on the road just after 6. We figured we'd be in Berkeley just after 6:30 and probably in our seats by 7 at the latest. That's when we hit traffic. You have to understand, by some twist of cosmic fate, every other trip we'd taken to the Bay area since moving to Redding had been almost completely bad-traffic-free. I guess we were due.

It took nearly an hour to go the regularly 20-minute distance. And winding through Berkeley was interesting experience. The Greek Theater, the show's venue, is on UC Berkeley's campus, so our drive there took us right through the heart of the university. An incredible campus, by the way. But with it being the end of the first week of school, it was the beginning of rush week and the road to the Greek goes right through Frat Row. So we saw a bunch of rushing frat boys, complete with one guy smashing a large-screen analog TV with a sledgehammer on the front lawn of a frat house, to the amusement of other frat boys.

Event parking was 20 bucks and like hell I was going to pay that, so we spent another 15 minutes or so driving around looking for parking. I had forgotten how bad parking can get in a college town. Anyway, we found a place on a big hill about a mile from the theater, jumped out and started our hike.

By the time we got through the gate and into the Greek it was almost 7:30 exactly. The place, surprisingly, was still filling up and on the floor in the front of the stage was a perfect spot, almost dead center and about 20 feet back. Becky and I slipped in and were ready to rock.

Until Bean Pole (just over Becky's right shoulder) weaseled his way over. You have to understand, Becky's pretty tall, like 5'9". But this skinny kid moves up, he's at least 6'2" and stands right in front of Becky, blocking the entire view of the stage. The opening act was still going through the paces, so no worries yet. But we knew we had to get him to move at some point. It's a Wilco show, so the passive-aggressive route seemed the more appropriate route to take. We talked kind of loudly at first about the audacity of it all, hoping he'd overhear and get the point. But it's a concert and already it was pretty loud. So that didn't work. He was standing so close to Becky that Becky could have breathed on him and he probably would have felt it. So Becky decided to breathe on him to see if he could feel it and then maybe move. She starts blowing at the little hairs on the back of his neck and nothing. He was either ignoring it or too stoned to notice. But she kept it up.

It was all good. The warm-up act finished their set and cleared the stage and Bean Pole at that point decided to move, so we were good.

After what felt like an eternity, the stage went dark and from the wings the band takes their places and immediately goes into "Sunken Treasure." They played most of the stuff from the new album, "Either Way," "You Are My Face," (hearing the entire crowd come in on the bridge and sing "I have no idea how this happens, etc." gave me goose bumps) "Impossible Germany," "Sky Blue Sky," "Side With Seeds," "Shake It Off," "Hate It Here," Walken" and "On and On and On."

It sounded great live. Even "Shake It Off," probably my least favorite track from the album, popped and crackled and just rocked by the end. Jeff joked a lot with the audience, which was fun. He even went on a rant at one point committing the audience to never using the phrase "I loves me some." It was pretty funny, but I couldn't help thinking that the folks that really needed to hear was a few blocks up the road at Frat Row.

And as funny as Jeff was, the two to watch were Nels Cline and Pat Sansome. Nels, an avant garde jazz guitarist who joined the band two years ago, was incredible. Each time he'd slip into one of his solos, he would start bouncing around (he's at least 6'6") and his hand would be moving so quickly it was a literal blur. The guy was nuts. It was awesome. Pat joined the band about the same time; he and John Stirrat are in Autumn Defense together. Anyway, you got the feeling he knew people weren't at the show to see him necessarily so he'd bounce around stage, pulling all these 80s hair-band poses with this guitar or shaking a tamborine, giving off an-almost Topher Grace-sarcastic vibe. It was funnier than it reads.

The band came on for a couple encores. They played "Outta Mind Outta Site" and it was electrifying. They also did "California Stars" which was really cool, considering we were in California. They closed with "Spiders" which I thought was going to be let down, but wasn't. That's another song that works really well live. I mean, by the end you just have this wall of guitars thundering through the song's main hook. It was pretty dang cool.

Disappointingly, they didn't play "Kingpin," which I knew was a long shot, but they also didn't play "Heavy Metal Drummer" or "The Thanks I Get," which I full-on expected.

So, all in all, the show was brilliant. If you can't get to a Wilco show anytime in the near future, you can go to the band's Web site where they're currenlty streaming the London show from the European leg of their tour this spring. It's all very professional, easily CD-quality sound. They'll also be on Leno tonight. But I don't recommend watching Jay Leno, so I'll leave that decision up to you.


Urpy said...

It's like I just relived our weekend. Ahhh, what a good time that way. I love Jeff and I have a newfound love for Pat. I never even knew he was there before but now I will never forget him.

You didn't really mention how dead the croud was. I was disappointed by their lack of enthusiasm but we probably more than made up for it. Plus, I swear Jeff looked at us a couple of times because we were actually getting into the groove and singing along with the lyrics. I mean, he's got to be impressed that we know California Stars, which was one of the best songs if you ask me.

It was fun. I wish everyone could have been there to enjoy it with us.

Stephanie B said...

Is California Stars the one on the Darrington Christmas video? If so, that's a pretty cool song.

d said...

ohhh, its almost like being their with you. thanks for the review. I'm going to go put in some Wilco and wish I had been there.

Amber Carter said...

I thought of you guys when we passed through Redding on the way to Lake Shasta last weekend. It IS a long drive from Antioch. And with Bay Area traffic on your way to Wilco it must have seemed like you spent your whole day in the car! I loved Lake Shasta though. You're lucky to be so close to the lake!

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