Last night, I was one of about 6,000 people that descended on Rockafeller Center's Radio City Music Hall to see Wilco play their debut at what is one of the world's greatest concert halls. The house was completely sold out. I was seated in section 5, row A of the second mezzanine, which for those of you too lazy to check the seating chart, is the first row on the second balcony, just left of center.
First off, the Fiery Furances. Frankly, I didn't enjoy them at all. I left the theater for the lobby shortly after they started their set, and re-entered near the end. Most of the crowd had the same feeling I did, as the lobby was packed and the hall empty until just before Wilco took the stage. I don't know what to say, really. They're on the punk side of pop, and I don't tend to like punk. So yeah. That happened.
Then, around 9:30-9:45, Wilco came on. They started off with "Hummingbird", and the sound was just glorious. I've been listening to some pretty good music lately, and have been been to some great shows: Sufjan Stevens, Franz Ferdinand, The Decemberists, etc. Wilco is transcendently awesome on a level we mere mortals can only appreciate from a distance. It's a whole different plane of music excellence.
Most of the material was from A Ghost is Born, but they played some from all their other albums as well. "Passenger Side", "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart", "I'm the Man Who Loves You", "California Stars", "Ashes of American Flags", "Poor Places," really great songs.
Tweedy was obviously enjoying himself. After the second song, "Muzzle of Bees", he said we were the most beautiful audience he'd ever seen. "That may have something to do with this being the most beautiful room I've ever seen, but you guys aren't chopped liver. And I know from chopped liver." Thanks, Jeff. I think. It was a big night for him in any case. Not everyone gets to play at Radio City, and Tweedy announced that his mom and dad had flown out for the show and were somewhere in the audience. "My dad drank, like, a whole case of beer between the airport and here. Okay, that's a little bit of an exaggeration." (Some guy sitting behind me yelled out, "So did I!" Which I believe.) I believe his wife was in attendence as well, because he told "Susie" he loved her. Which was kind of sweet.
After the first set, while the crowd was cheering for an encore, this guy in a tacky suit with a drum came out on stage. He got the crowd to clap in unison and cheer for Wilco while asking if we felt the Latin flavor of his drumming. I still don't know what the hell that was about, but Wilco came back out, so it was okay.
A couple of things. Radio City Music Hall may be a fantastic venue with glorious acoustics, extrordinary seating, and stupendous aesthetics, but it doesn't necessarily make for a fantastic rock 'n roll venue. About halfway through the show, Tweedy commented that when the lights shone over the crowd he could see pockets of people standing up here and there. "There's people that want to rock, and people who don't," he said, "It takes all kinds, you know?" I had noticed this myself, and was a bit disappointed by it. But I wasn't entirely surprised either. We're about two miles from the epicenter of hipster cynicism, and the seats were damn comfy. But simply having seats makes it hard to get a crowd really pumped, as they enforce a polite distance between people. Just something I noticed.
I've not been in the best of moods lately, as school is growing increasingly difficult, so it was great to take a few hours off to listen to some truly wonderful music. This made Tweedy's descent into political boosterism pretty disappointing. Near the end of the second encore, just before "War on War", he encouraged us all to vote, and not vote for Bush. Look, I'm certainly supportive of his right to his opinion, and I don't even have a problem with espousing those opinions in public. But frankly, I've had enough problems with barking moonbats in recent weeks, and didn't really want to think about politics last night. I also happen to be sick of artists and other celebrities thinking they know something about politics, but that's neither here nor there. I wasn't in the mood for it, and Tweedy saying that people who were thinking about voting for Bush needed to get some help or a therapist wasn't appreciated.
They played a great show. It was great to have been there, and if I could afford to be there again tonight, I'd go in a second. I may yet try to scalp a ticket on the corner: there were a few dozen guys standing around with tickets, and I think the same will be true tonight. I get off volunteering at 8PM, and the show won't start till at least 9:30. Plenty of time.
Next up is a really busy week starting on 10/16 with The Decemberists again. Then Crooked Fingers plays on 10/19, and Death Cab for Cutie is on 10/22. Heck yeah.Posted by ryan at October 6, 2004 1:52 PM