Ottawa, Canada
December 15
Greetings! I am a terminal music fan who will be writing about my life as a concertgoer from 1975 to the present. It’s about the music but also about the lives lived along with it. Many entries will feature a scan of the original ticket as well as a recollection of each gig as a whole experience rather than simply being a description of the performance. Therefore, this blog will be a mixture of memoir, concert review, music history, and philosophical musing. Concurrently, I will be writing about shows that I am seeing in the present. Thanks to Cublet for artwork assistance. **** I’m on Facebook ( mylifeinconcert) ... and have just launched a YouTube channel, VATV ( I also re/cross-post on my stand-alone blog ( Non-OS members who wish to comment can do so over at that site. *****

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JULY 8, 2010 4:51PM

My Life – In Concert! 147.Wilco, 2010

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147: Outtasite: Wilco with Bahamas, Southam Hall, National Arts Centre, Ottawa, Ontario, Monday March 1, 2010, $54.75.

Wilco, March 1, 2010, Southam Hall, National Arts Centre, Ottawa, Ontario 

Personally, I hate this shade of green. 

During a Lucinda Williams show in 2007, she talked to the crowd about her take on the synergy of a concert, how it's not just about spectators watching a performer but about the two entities engaging, feeding off of each other with reciprocal energy. Well, this Wilco show was a perfect demonstration of The Lucinda Principle put into practice. Both band and audience were in a celebratory mood, primed for having a great time. The crowd brought enthusiasm and affection by the shedload and Wilco responded with the best set I have ever seen them play. I would describe this as a perfect concert.

This March 1, 2010 show took place on what was an unofficial National Day of Celebration, following Canada's nail-biting Olympic hockey victory over the US the previous day. The whole country felt drunk with joy – and many were, with more than just joy.

As with anywhere in the world, there are always cultural misconceptions, distortions or untruths about a particular country or region, and Canada is no exception to inaccurate assumptions. However, the one about everyone up here being fanatically obsessed with hockey … okay, actually, that is true. I am one of about, say, 72 Canadians who does not live and breathe hockey during half (3/4?) of the year, and even I watched the game, cheering the team on. That says something about how much of a historical and cultural landmark it was north of the 49th.

Wilco played the following night at the NAC's Southam Hall (the same venue where I almost had an unintended balcony dive 3 months later at an Aretha Franklin concert) and the sold out crowd was positively giddy.

National Arts Centre, June 2010

 The National Arts Centre, Ottawa, June 2010.  Southam Hall is the NAC's opera house and largest performing venue.

“Was there a big sporting event that you won or something?” deadpanned Wilco frontman and de facto leader, Jeff Tweedy. “I've never seen you all so happy.” Closing in on the end of a cross-Canada tour, he often weighed in throughout the night on what a trip it had been to be here, watching the mania of the hockey series build and then witnessing the spontaneous eruption of euphoria.

But before Chicago's finest took to the stage, Toronto's Bahamas warmed up the crowd. Cublet and I trotted over to the NAC and into our seats shortly after Bahamas had begun his set. I knew absolutely nothing about him but was pretty impressed, as were seemingly most in attendance.

Although a fairly minimalist performer, with simply himself on guitar along with a drummer, Bahamas had Southam Hall in the palm of his hand with his soft, dreamy tunes, receiving quite a positive response from the crowd. “Who is this?” enquired Cublet. “He's good.” I concurred. As it turns out, his main gig is as Feist's guitar player. Ergo, we had seem him in that role a few times before, but weren't yet aware of that.

Bahamas alternated solid songwriting with witty between-song patter, noting that it had been an honour to open this series of shows for Wilco. He also talked about the terrific affirmation he had been getting from audiences, and that tonight's crowd was particularly complimentary.

His debut album, Pink Strat, made the Polaris long list (but not the just-announced short list).

After a brief intermission, Wilco took to the stage, kicking off the night with the one-two punch of “Wilco (The Song)” and “Black Bull Nova” off their latest disc, Wilco (The Album) (I wonder if there is any swag out there along the lines of Wilco {The Nose Snood} ) before settling in to a long, faultless set.

One of the things that I love about this band is their deft stylistic diversity. While many groups seem to simply re-make the same album over and over, Wilco genre jump from disc to disc – and sometimes within the context of one – in a way that seems organic rather than contrived. They remind me a bit of The Beatles in that they will try their hand at a variety of musics – rootsy introspection, mellotron-laden retro-pop, crunchy alt-rock, and avant-garde soundscape experimention – yet the overall picture threads together nicely, with the signature element of Tweedy's superb songwriting at the core, anchoring the varied side trips.

They delivered a 2.5 hour, 26-song performance, finely burnishing chestnuts from every stage of their career, showcasing each facet of their musical strengths, and imbuing every number with all the right details and elements. “Via Chicago” and “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart” were moody and abrasive while “Blue Eyed Soul” and “You Are My Face” were nuanced and introspective. “California Stars” and “A Shot in the Arm” bopped hard while “Hummingbird” and “You Never Know” (the best song The Travelling Wilburys never recorded) nimbly bounced. The Television-esque guitar interplay of “Impossible Germany” and “Side With the Seeds” cross-stitched and soared while “Handshake Drugs” and “Poor Places” slowly built into Sonic Youth-esque sound sculptures. And “I'm A Wheel” and “Spiders” straight up rocked the house.

Wilco lisence plate

Photograph of a license plate, taken by OS's lschmoopie following a concert in California (thanks for the use of the photo).  As for the sentiments, I couldn't agree more.

It's impossible to talk about a Wilco show without noting how the current six-member band functions as such an intuitive, cohesive whole. They were on fire. The interplay between the musicians seemed telepathic, with the resulting performance telegraphed from a shared zone between them. Multi-instrumentalist Nels Cline must be singled out for special mention and meritorious service throughout the evening, adding a variety of sonic details, interjections, and inspired playing that kicked everything up that extra notch.

Nels Cline Wilco  

Click above for Nels Cline and some angular guitar freak-outs during a personal favourite of mine, “Impossible Germany,” Southam Hall, NAC, Ottawa, Ontario, March 1, 2010.

We had great seats at the end of the 8th row, but I was just too into the show and wired up from the ongoing performance to sit down. Instead, I joined a cluster of people at the left hand side of the stage, all of us taking it in while standing and swaying, going deeper into the music with each consecutive tune.

Tweedy remained oddly silent for about the first third of the evening but turned into a between-set chatterbox as the night progressed. He even indulged in some of that there fun audience participation schtuff, coaxing the audience into singing “Jesus Etc.” for him. Slacker!

Wilco NAC Jesus Etc 

Click above for the Southam Hall audience accompanying Wilco on “Jesus Etc.”

Following the main set, they returned for encores, beginning with their cover of Neil Young's “Broken Arrow.” I had been expecting this as Wilco had recently played the Buffalo Springfield-era nugget in front of Neil himself as part of a Grammy Awards MusiCares tribute show. What I hadn't expected was such a faithful recreation of this tune. While I normally prefer covers that differ considerably from the original, in this instance I enjoyed the perversity of a meticulous recreation given that the original recording is such a decidedly studio-created, patchwork piece.   And they pulled it off beautifully.

Wilco Broken Arrow Portland 

Click above for Wilco's cover of Neil Young/Buffalo Springfield's "Broken Arrow," Portland, Oregon, Feb. 9, 2010

Five more numbers later and Wilco were over and out for the evening, concluding with “I'm the Man Who Loves You.”

Over the past decade or so, they've emerged as one of the finest bands of this era. I've now seen Wilco play one good show, one great one, and, with this March 1st performance, a true classic in my personal canon that was, to invoke a song title from Being There, Outtasite.

More of this, please.

Next On Stage--> Over the next two weeks, I will be seeing a series of shows as part of Cisco Ottawa Bluesfest 2010 –or simply, Bluesfest. For live music lovers in the area, these two weeks in July are usually the highlight of the year.

While it did start off over 15 years ago as a "blues" festival, the organizers threw out the programming rulebook almost a decade ago and it has grown into a huge annual event featuring all types of music, spread over 5 or 6 stages per night.   About 300,000 revellers turn out over the dozen nights.

After an atypically weak 2009 line-up-wise, the Fest has come roaring back with its best year ever, in my estimation. However, it is beginning in the midst of a blistering heat wave, with daily temperatures topping out in the lower 40sC with the humidex factor (that's in the low 100s for those of you who use Fahrenheit). No metalheads were reported to have sponteneously melted during Iron Maiden's opening set on Tuesday night so hopefully yours truly will do ok at enduring the heat during tonight's performances.

For now, I plan on seeing and writing about:

Thursday July 8: The B-52s, Renaissance (that should be one bizarre twosome to take in tonight -- and I'll have to restrict my shimmying during the B's set owing to the oppressive heat)

Friday July 9: Hole, Joan Jett

Saturday July 10: The Flaming Lips (The show I am MOST stoked about seeing this year)

Sunday July 11: John Hiatt, Levon Helm

Tuesday July 13: Arcade Fire

Wednesday July 14: (I might take in) Steve Windwood, Santana, or Plants & Animals (depending upon my stamina)

Thursday July 15: Crowded House

Friday July 16: (I might take in) Stars, Blonde Redhead (once again, depending upon my stamina)

Saturday July 17: The Hold Steady plus a screening of Night of the Living Dead featuring live dialogue delivered by local actors, accompanied by a live soundtrack and sound effects played by members of The Hilotrons, the Ottawa Symphony, and the NAC Orchestra – and with director George A. Romero in attendance!

I would like to hope that I could peel off some quick, daily entries following each night of gig-going. However, knowing that I am a methodical writer who tends to take time building and fussing over my pieces (and that I'll be returning to work during the second half of Bluesfest), I'm not sure that I can say when each of these items will go live – you'll just have to stay tuned and see.

For those in the area heading out to any of the Bluesfest shows – enjoy!, and try not to be undone too much by this mind-boggling heat and humidity.

Impossible Germany  

Click above for a superb full rendition of “Impossible Germany” from 2009.  Is this Television or what?

NAC Ottawa March 1 2010  

Click above for a series of clips from the March 1, 2010 gig. While this compilation is nice and well put together, the person has edited the footage down to highlight many of the more low-key moments of the show and is therefore not a fully representative overview of Wilco on that night.  Still, this is a pretty cool souvenir.

NOTE: I also crosspost on my Wordpress blog.  

© 2010 VariousArtists


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You said : They remind me a bit of The Beatles in that they will try their hand at a variety of musics – rootsy introspection, mellotron-laden retro-pop, crunchy alt-rock, and avant-garde soundscape experimention – yet the overall picture threads together nicely, with the signature element of Tweedy's superb songwriting at the core, anchoring the varied side trips.

I say: Yes, yes, and yes. That is probably why they are one of my fav. bands.

Here is the set list from when I saw them in 2009 in Berkeley, CA:
1. Wilco (The Song)
2. Muzzle Of Bees
3. A Shot In The Arm
4. At Least That's What You Said
5. Bull Black Nova
6. You Are My Face
7. Deeper Down
8. I Am Trying To Break Your Heart
9. One Wing
10. Radio Cure
11. Impossible Germany
12. California Stars
13. Can't Stand It
14. Jesus, Etc.
15. Handshake Drugs
16. Hate It Here
17. Walken
18. I'm The Man Who Loves You

Set 2:
19. You Never Know
20. The Late Greats
21. Box Full Of Letters
22. Misunderstood
23. Spiders (Kidsmoke)
24. Hoodoo Voodoo

The crowd was on their feet the entire night. It was a gorgeous night under the "California Stars". It was also the first time Wilco had done a program, so we got one for $5.00-complete with band artwork.
Ah, you got to hear "Can't Stand It" and "Misunderstood."

For some reason, they never seem to play "What Light" which is a big favourite.