Kicking Television: Live in Chicago Live
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See all 12 tracks on this disc
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See all 11 tracks on this disc
Kicking Television-Live in Chicago, recorded over four nights in May at The Vic Theatre. "It's really the best it's ever felt," said Jeff Tweedy to the Detroit Free Press earlier this year. "I would say at this point, I don't think I've ever been in a band that's felt this connected and unified with this collective vision." To document that collective vision that band called upon veteran mixing engineer Jim Scott (Tom Petty, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Dave Matthews, Johnny Cash) to capture the energy, excitement, clarity and musicality that has earned Wilco continued praise for their live shows around the world. Warner. 2005.
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"Kicking Television: Live in Chicago" (2CDs, 23 tracks, 113 min.) brings the best of a 4 night stand at the Vic Theatre in Chicago in May, 2005. Rightfully so, the setlist is heavy on the YHF and ghost albums. For me the best song on the entire set is the 11+ min. epic "Spiders (Kidsmoke)", which live sounds miles better than it does on "ghost". The highlights are many: "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart", "Muzzle of Bees", "Poor Places" and the 2 Guthrie-worded songs "One by One" and "Airline to Heaven" (from the "Mermaid Avenue" CDs) are my personal favorites, but there really is no weak song on the entire album. The other band members are equally strong throughout.
If you've seen Wilco live, do yourself a favor and buy this, you won't be disappointed! In a sense, this live album almost feels like the closing of another chapter in Wilco's journey. Maybe Tweedy is ready to embark on another musical experiment altogether, to which I say: sign me up!
At the time of this writing, I'd gotten close, but I hadn't even reached the monstrous Can-meets-Rolling-Stones epic "Spiders (Kidsmoke)" (track 10 of 11 on disc 2,) from whence my sub-header is stolen, yet I can say that this is one of the best live albums I've ever heard. The sound is stunning - it's honest and warm, untouched other than getting some loving tweaking at the mixing stage. No overdubs where the musicians flubbed a note or two, or where the vocals weren't just right, and that's the way a live album should be, especially for a band like Wilco and even more especially for <em>this</em> version of Wilco, who are easily the finest grouping of musicians Jeff Tweedy has assembled to back him. And even though the songs were recorded over four separate concerts on as many nights, everything meshes perfectly. There's no attempt to hide the fact that this isn't one concert, but more a representation of what a Wilco show can be.
The clarity is amazing - in front of a noisy audience with 6 musicians making as much of a racket as they can (such as at the end of "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart" or the subway-inspired noises in "Via Chicago,") every noise and every instrument is perfectly clear. For people who really enjoy listening closely, this is a real treat. (Jazz guitarist Nels Cline's fascinating contributions are audible in the left channel, Pat Sansone's guitar and keyboard work are in the right, and Jeff Tweedy's guitar is just slightly right of center while the rest of the band pans out between the three of them.)
It's so good I have to carry it around with me, so I can look at the lovingly designed (but slightly minimal) artwork, a hallmark of Nonesuch-label projects. I just can't commit it to simple mp3 files in my Ipod just yet - I'm not ready to give up on the tangible goods. It all, as a whole, needs time to soak in before I can file it away in the collection. If only every live album could be this lovingly prepared. Or every studio album, for that matter.
(The only downside to the whole thing is not getting the accompanying DVD that had been planned and filmed, but has since been scrapped by Tweedy as not "<a href="[...]">giving a sense of the audience, a sense of the time and place</a>." It's a real shame not getting to <em>see</em> this band performing this material, but I have no doubt in the future we'll get some live video from them.)
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