Chicago’s own Wilco is touring in support of their tenth studio album “Schmilco,” the 2016 follow up to “Star Wars,” performing shows and joining festivals in the US and Canada, as well as the Mad Cool Festival in Madrid, Spain, throughout 2017.
The sextet of Nels Cline, Mikael Jorgensen, Glenn Kotche, Patrick Sansone, John Stiratt and Jeff Tweedy held their first hometown, reserved seat performance in five years, selling out four shows at the Chicago Theatre, “coming home” as their song “Via Chicago” proclaims.
“We’ve haven’t been back here since the Conan O’Brien show,” said Tweedy during the tight, exuberant set, wearing a “We’re in this together” shirt (“except for Trump; he’s a dick,” he added when asked) and an appropriate white hat over two braids in front of a lovely tree backdrop.
Of the new release, Tweedy has said, “It’s sad in a lot of ways, but not in any that reach a conclusion of doom or hopelessness. I just had a lot of fun being sour about the things that upset me.” The February 26 set list (and two encores) supported that sentiment, including the second tune, “Normal American Kids,” which said:
Oh, all of my spirit leaked like a cut
I knew what I needed would never be enough
I was too high to change my bid
Always afraid to be a normal American kid
He continued to wax philosophical with “If I Ever Was A Child,” singing, “I slump behind my brain / A haunted stain never fades / I hunt for the kind of pain I can take;” admitting “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart;” wondering “How can I convince you it’s me I don’t like” (from “Reservations”); finding timeliness in “Cry All Day”:
However, there’s another
Another future to fight
I never took it so seriously
Oh, it was serious alright
Watch ’em all fight
But you can’t fight it
Tweedy encouraged singing along, providing the right mix of interstitial banter, noting “I don’t like audiences, but I feel good about this, where we’re heading.” Among the strong musicians, manic pixie dream dude drummer Kotche nearly stole the show with Muppet Animal-like riffs and chair standing. This show fell on Oscar night, so Tweedy nominated the audience for “Best Dressed” (and less drunk than his Saturday crowd), and accepted the award on our behalf. Plus, he joked, “Since you’re missing the ceremony, I wrote a political speech.”
His personal narratives effectively drive his musical output, and he also shared a story about how his 85-year-old father, who spent a lifetime working for the railroads in southern Illinois, was horrified about the Muslim ban. “My dad said that is not what America is about, and, if he hadn’t had a hip replacement, he would be protesting at the airports too.”
And, he added, “don’t get discouraged…stay optimistic.”
Tweedy returns solo to Chicago for his annual Benefit for Education on April 21 and 22 at the Vic.
Wilco played “Winterlude 2017” at the Chicago Theatre on February 22, 23, 25 and 26. The tour schedule includes a link to make show song requests and dedications (four ticket limit per customer).