Writing and Photography by: Bobby Talamine
Pritzker Pavilion - Millennium Park Chicago
What a welcome return to Chicago with Jeff Tweedy and Wilco, along with special guest and co- headliner Sleater-Kinney. We can all breathe a sigh of relief to actually attend an event of significance- albeit outdoors at the gorgeous Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park Chicago.
How significant- with two awesome and co- headlining bands? None other than Marty Lennartz from WXRT Chicago- Introducing Wilco to the stage, stated as such at how much he was so looking forward to this special show and getting back to some kind of normalcy, witnessing great live music, with two special bands and getting communal with like minded folk.
Marty meant it - all from the heart- no script.
And if that wasn't enough- Jeff Tweedy of Wilco chimed in as well, after their second song, stating: "WE missed this. WE missed that. But WE definitely missed this."
And the audience laughed out loud at the comedic sentiment- from the heart like Marty Lennartz, but with a joyous laugh at all things that got us to our current state of affairs.
And to have this show at Pritzker close out their summer tour- that too brought out the performances as well- with Jeff and Sleater-Kinney all smiles from my vantage point, along with lead guitarist Nels Cline, who usually stoic by nature and by- the- book- walks out on stage bowing with hands held in prayer to his guitar spot perch, and receiving the loud and joyous applause, and also all smiles in reciprocation.
That kind of introduction makes you feel good all over, and looking out at the vastness of the crowd- all jubilant and excited and standing and stomping their feet, even before a note has been played...man oh man- you stand there like the band and soak it all in.
And as far as the actual show- let's just bounce back and forth between the two headliners to give you an idea of the excitement and overall positive feel goods throughout.
Because when you think of it, both bands have foundational members, both bands have terrific musicianship, both bands have a vast catalog of songs to pick and choose from, and both bands have had their fare share of tumultuousness and have come out the other side- somewhat unscathed.
Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker of Sleater- Kinney: throughout their set, they looked like and felt like they had a blast being up onstage and performing to a raucous crowd, which was provoked by Carrie two songs in, when she motioned the audience to come forward and party close to the stage, since she noticed there was no pit barricade set up at all, making this photographer get boxed like the other five photographers to get some decent shots for the first three songs of their set.
It wasn't as bad as I expected- mostly jubilant fans surrounded me and were dancing in place, singing to Carrie and Corin and reciting every lyric throughout.
And the fans were allowed to stay there for Sleater's entire set, making it feel like a club set at the venerated Metro Chicago from back in the day.
As for Sleater Kinney's set: 19 songs in total, even with a guest appearance from none other than Fred Armisen towards the end of their set, standing next to the keyboard player on a riser and banging out a beat on a tambourine.
Their set- opening with "High in the Grass", and bolting into "Hurry on Home" and then into "Price Tag"- a one- two- three punch of volatile fun, with Carrie maniacally shredding notes at a fevered pace.
The band has expanded a bit since the last time through town, with three guitarists in total banging and clanging off one another, enhancing their sound, flushing out their sound, and adding a dimension of ping pong craziness which harked back to their chaotic and crazy younger days.
Sleater's set was like this throughout, with a fierce commitment to showmanship along with brash interpretations to elevate the songs to heightened po- going frenzy.
Have to say I was transfixed throughout, as when their set dug deeper, with songs such as "Path of Wellness" and "Worry with You" being highlights, let alone the amped up "Entertain" to close out their set.
Entertain? Indeed. In spades.
As far as Wilco's set- why not bring out Carrie and Corin to sing backup vocal right off the bat, with the song "A Shot in the Arm"- both looking so happy to perform it with Jeff and the boys, giddy and having a blast stage left / audience right.
And then into "Random Name Generator"- a song with such swing and energy, made more poignant and refined with cool from Nels and his guitar fills, intertwined with the tweaked and awesome yin and yang notes from Jeff.
All smiles these two- stated again, and such a pleasure to see these two cast of characters having a blast trading notes with one another, barreling through their catalog of awesomeness.
"Love is Everywhere" into "Via Chicago"- again a momentous moment of classiness and swing, and outright shock and awe- with pummeling backbeats worthy of more hard rock, and yet polished nice and clean when played by the Wilco participants.
Drummer Glenn Kotche looked like he was having a blast throughout the set, with unbalanced and wayward hits that mixed in nicely to whichever song you so choose, as if making a statement time and time again that Wilco's catalog of songs are meant for interpretation and most of all improvisation.
Everything about this special night to close out the tour in Chicago was so warm and inviting, with Wilco's audience at one with the band, and reciprocating in kind, all the way up to and into the encore, with "The Late Greats" and "Outtasite (Outta Mind)" to close out their set.
As for the future- going forward with this pandemic and fighting through the variants, and making our way hopefully and successfully into 2022 and beyond:
More Wilco and Sleater-Kinney please.
As for Chicagoan and opener Nnamdi Ogbonnaya- his set was uplifting and enlightening, even with a wounded wrist and forearm. Nnamdi is blessed with an innocent demeanor, topped with openhearted vocals that mix succinctly with the worldbeat musicianship of his whip-smart band.