Last night was the second Friday in a row where I had the opportunity to see two great shows in one night. The first, was Wilco. I have been a Wilco fan for most of my adult life. I have seen them play shows several times, the first of which (and best, in my opinion) was on their Yankee Hotel Foxtrot tour. Despite the comparative weakness of their most recent studio effort, Wilco (The Album), their live show is incredible.
Wilco are great showmen. I found it difficult, as I watched them, to decide which member I should focus on. Should it be Jeff Tweedy? He would be the obvious choice, as he composes most of the songs himself. It is obvious, from watching him play, that he is in a great state of mind: happy, and sober and loving playing music with this, the longest lasting incarnation of the band to date (Wilco (The Album) is the first Wilco album to feature the same line up as the previous record).
Or, should I focus on Nels Cline. Nels is a fucking dynamo. One of the most talented guitarists I have ever had the pleasure to watch. He brings a jazz sensibility to a band that has been trying to shake the “Alt-Country” label that has been ascribed to them since their formation (the band rose from the ashes of ‘Alt-Country godfathers, Uncle Tupelo). Nels Cline brings other things to the band as well. The man becomes an extension of his guitar when he plays. He stalks around the stage like a deranged giraffe as he strangles impossible noises from the neck of whichever guitar he chooses to play. This is to say nothing of his mastery of the lap-steel. He is an incredible musician.
Or, do I watch multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone? He is the kid of the band. He throws things in the air (mostly maracas, I think) and obviously doesn’t give a fuck as to where they land (though, miraculously, they always land to the rhythm of the music). I watched him for the entirety of “I’m A Wheel”, a song he played entirely in a windmill style strum. He brings a youth and playfulness to this band; he is the jester of Tweedy’s court.
So, I tried to watch all of them at once. More importantly, I listened. They did not disappoint. While they didn’t play favourites such as “Hell Is Chrome” or “Poor Places” (their catalog, by now, much too large to please everyone) their set was tight… and no, they didn’t play “You And I” (thank God).
By the end of their second, and final encore, everyone in the theater, no matter how reluctant (and many where reluctant, especially all of those on the left hand side of the front ten rows or so) was on their feet dancing. One highlight was a complete reworking of Gutherie’s “Hoodoo Voodoo” from the Mermaid Avenue sessions… a playful, funky, jazzy interpretation of a song much older than any of the kinda-old band members. It was a great concert.
After that show, we piled into the station wagon and drove to Logan’s, where Frog Eye’s played host to an unofficial Wilco after party. The difference between venues is disparate enough to mention here. The Royal Theater is one of the many gems on Victoria’s ornate crown. It is where people go to see Operas or the symphony: there are balconies lined with gold. Logan’s beauty, as I shall attempt to explain here, is much more subtle.
I don’t know if there is a Logan. If there is, I would expect that he is about 93 1/2 years old and that he brushes his teeth with Comet. The pictures of his favourite children line the walls: most of them are police file photos. My personal favourite it the one of Nick Nolte, clad in a blue Hawaiian Shirt. Judging from Nolte’s unkempt hair and wild expression, the arresting officers were doing him a favor by lassoing him that night: I am sure papa Logan was proud.
Prominent among Papa Logan’s favourite children are the four members of Frog Eyes, who hit the stage on Friday night like an extremely bookish tornado, or something like that. They were loud, but also operatic; they would not be out of place if they were ever to do a show at the Royal (let’s all cross our fingers that, one day, they will be invited to do so). Frog Eyes blessed those of us who crammed in to Papa Logan’s living room stage with an assortment of songs including some new ones (rumor is they have a new album in the works for April (?)). If Friday night’s show is any indication, the new album will be every bit as good as their most recent “Tears of the Valedictorian“, maybe even better.
After the show, I took all of the mayhem from Frog Eye’s set, and distilled it into my pizza eating technique (we ran across the street to Pizza Zone). I really enjoy eating pizza, especially when it is drenched in the hot sauce they have there. One of the patrons stood outside the window and watched me eat. Hot sauce covered my face and flowed down my forearm in torrents. The single-ply napkins they supply there were no match for my gluttony; I was forced to use my sleeve and my pants so I could regain some semblance of respectability as we went back to Logan’s in order to find a lost purse.
And then, we went to the park. I had never been to this park before. It was very nice. It was in a place where a house “should be”, but thank God it isn’t! I wonder if the park has a name. Fittingly, on this two-for Friday, I went to the park with two Megans (who refused to be called ‘Megan 1’ and ‘Megan 2’). Megan 1 had a purse with three beers in it! She was kind enough to share (with all of the shows, I didn’t have time to drink a beer all night!).
As great as both shows were, it was very nice to have some quiet. Instead of listening to microphones, we talked about them. And pianos and garbage cans. Some dude came over and joined in; he knew a lot about music! And then, we decided to get more pizza! Unfortunately, when the staff at the pizza zone saw me coming, they hid their hotsauce and turned off all the lights. I ate beef jerky instead, with almost as much gusto. And then, I went home to bed. I had to be up at 9:3o for my weekly visit with the Jehovah’s Witnesses. More on that tomorrow!