Wilco in Millennium Park Review – We Missed You

“We missed you”

That phrase was said a lot Saturday night in Millennium Park.  As the global pandemic has raged on, live music is hard to come by.  But in the middle of Chicago, in the open air of Pritzker Pavilion, Wilco came home to play a real-life rock show.  It was their first show in their hometown of Chicago in about 15 months, which is 15 months too long.  However, the band wasn’t rusty and showed that good things come to those that wait.  

Wilco’s first show in their hometown of Chicago in about 15 months

The night started out with another Chicago based artist, the synth-soul singer Nnamdi.  He gave a heartfelt, albeit short, performance for the early birds.  After that, Sleater-Kinney took the stage and showed that it was still ok to ROCK.  With guitars wailing, hair flying, arms wind-milling, feet shuffling, and high leg kicks, Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein displayed all the rock star moves.  The music was so exuberant, that the crowd rushed the stage to bop, sway, dance and to say, “we missed you.”  

Sleater-Kinney has all the Rock moves

The best part of Sleater-Kinney live is seeing Brownstein and Tucker work together.  They flawlessly rotate and support each other as they take turns singing, soloing, thrashing and working the crowd.  It is as if they are of one mind.  Their lively set was a release of months and months without being able to rock.

Wilco opened up their set with “Shot in the Arm” – with a little help on vocals from Sleater-Kinney (incidentally the best value of the night was a $10, limited-edition vinyl record in the merch tent with Sleater-Kinney’s version of  “Shot in the Arm” on one side and Wilco’s version of Sleater-Kinney’s “Modern Girl” on the flip side.  A cool collector’s item).  

Wilco front man Jeff Tweedy

Right from the start, the crowd immediately forgot about the messiness of the last 18 months, and fell back into the arms of Wilco.  Like a warm blanket that you didn’t know you needed on a 90 degree day, but appreciated all the same.  “We missed you.”

Wilco’s melodic set showcased two things:  

  1. The band has written some classic tunes over the years.  On Saturday night the audience was gifted with “If I Ever Was a Child,” “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart,” and “Heavy Metal Drummer.”  Tweedy asked the audience to sing along with “Jesus, Etc.” which was my personal favorite of the night, it was so beautiful the tall buildings surrounding Pritzker Pavilion really did seem to shake, as the lyrics suggest.  
  2. The band is a well-oiled machine.  The interplay of wild guitarwork from Nels Cline mixed with the bombastic drumming of Glenn Kotche along with Tweedy’s earnest front-man style is a formula that wins consistently.  And leaves a void when not around – “We missed you.”
Wilco is a well-oiled machine

Chicago, and especially this crowd, is very familiar with Wilco.  Front-man Jeff Tweedy even joked, “This is for the old timers and that’s a lot of you.”  By now Wilco is Chicago and Chicago is Wilco.  That is why 15 months seemed so long.  However, it won’t be that long moving forward because as Tweedy said on his way off the stage, “We live here. We’ll be back.”

Photos by K. Joseph Fotos. Full photo gallery here.

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