Sunday, June 28, 2009

Wilco and Okkervil River Played The Greek Theater - Pictures, Review, Setlist

If there was any suitable way to follow up David Byrne's performance on Friday night at the Greek, then this was certainly it. Okkervil River and Wilco joined forces to descend upon the very same venue, and give Byrne an unquestionable run for his money on the superb show from the night before. The two bands both delivered sets that ran the gamut of their catalog, and underscored just how formidable both of those catalogs are. However, even more than that, both bands gave joyous performances that, when combined with the weather, closed out one of the most exciting weekends of music we've seen in a very long time.

Okkervil River took the stage promptly at 7:30, and the Greek was already packed. It was clear that most of the audience had come to see both bands, and they showed it in spades. Will Sheff, for his part, did exactly the same, and managed to squeeze all of his usual passion and antics into a quick 30 minute set.

This was the first time we had seen the band with their new lead guitarist Lauren Gurgiolo, and we have to say we thought that she nailed it. Her style is certainly a little different from the band's older material, but the fact that she was totally shredding on some solos, adding fantastic accents to other songs, and thoroughly multi-instrumental all added up to be super impressive.

While the crowd was enthusiastic across the board, they really dug in for the last two numbers, "Our Life Is Not A Movie (Or Maybe)" and "It's Kicks". Both of the upbeat tunes underscored just how well Okkervil River played as an opening band, and how masterfully they worked such a large venue. We've said it before, but we'll say it again: they're a band who are going to keep getting bigger and bigger - keep your eyes open.

Wilco took the stage right around 8:30, and it was clear from the outset that they were ready to have a good time: everyone was all smiles, and the crowd was eating it up. They led off the set with a old and new mix: "Wilco (The Song)", "Muzzle Of Bees", and "Shot In The Arm". The latter served to really get the crowd going, and proceeded to give way to what would end up being two and a half hours of awesome rock and roll.

At this point, it almost seems moot to mention the technical instrumental wizardry that Wilco brings to the stage, if only because it's such a constant. that being said, they are such a tight unit, that it's still worth bringing up. The onstage rapport, the expert arrangements, and the band's individual talents all serve to create a live awesomeness that really can't be captured outside of being there.

The set list was a healthy mix of new and old material, with a slightly heavier emphasis on the former. The band's forthcoming (as in, this week) new album was well represented, with five tracks accounted for. All of the new material went over extremely well, although for us the highlight was "Bull Black Nova". The song manages to be a bit more edgy than its cohorts on the new record, and in a live setting it was even more so. Definitely tasty.

Of the old material, there were some favorites ("Misunderstood", "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart", "California Stars", and "Jesus Etc" to name a few), and a few surprises. Specifically, we were shocked to hear "Box Full Of Letters" (from AM), and "I Can't Stand It" (the lead off track from Summerteeth). Both of these tracks were somewhat noted in Wilco lore for being radio-friendly, and not particularly loved by the band. That being said, the performances were totally amazing - we're guessing the band's decision to play all of their recorded material in Chicago last year may have been the inspiration. Either way, we were loving it.

At the end of the day, we'll sum it up by saying this: Wilco shows are magical, as are shows at the Greek. Combine the two on a beautiful 70 degree night, and you have about the best dose of entertainment you can get. To get to hear the band tear through such an awesome selection of material, and be smiling while doing it was simply amazing. Nels Cline, as always, delivered knock-you-out guitar solos, and the rest of the band served to provide the pieces for the always-expanding Wilco puzzle. As the night came to a close, and the band tore out some insane solos on "Hoodoo Voodoo", we were left smiling, and knowing we'd be that way for quite a while.

Many more pictures at the HAD Archive

Wilco (The Song)
Muzzle Of Bees
A Shot In The Arm
At Least That's What You Said
Bull Black Nova
You Are My Face
Deeper Down
I Am Trying To Break Your Heart
One Wing
Radio Cure
Impossible Germany
California Stars
I Can't Stand It
Jesus, Etc.
Handshake Drugs
Hate It Here
I'm The Man Who Loves You
You Never Know
The Late Greats
Box Full Of Letters
Spiders (Kidsmoke)
Hoodoo Voodoo


Hanan said...

dude how do you get so close for pictures? the stage is hella high. I'm seeing Death Cab and Andrew Bird next Saturday, and I am so so so excited. I loooove the Greek.

Andrea said...

Great Review! I saw them the next night in Tahoe and they sounded stellar. I wish they would have played Box Full of Letters in Tahoe, we got Casino Queen.