Chicago Riviera Theatre

Wilco appear ready to step into the breach as Chicago's rock'n'roll representatives...

It’s the eve of the United States’ Thanksgiving holiday, and what do Chicago music fans have to be thankful for? With the impending demise of Smashing Pumpkins, it must be Wilco – the roots rock quintet that becomes the city’s most recognizable rock ‘n’ roll act. Here at home for the holiday, the band shows two sides during a two-hour performance in front of a packed crowd. Singer-guitarist Jeff Tweedy notes the fans closest to the stage are familiar faces. “The holidays are all about family,” he says, “and you people right here in the front row look familiar. Are you brothers and sisters? …We’re all brothers and sisters.”

Such homespun sentiments are in line with the first hour of the show, as Tweedy leads the band through an exploration of American music forms – blues, bluegrass, country and more. The band’s Billy Bragg/Woody Guthrie ‘Mermaid Avenue’ collaborations such as ‘Christ For President’ serve as the backbone to this portion of the set. But by the time the band gets to the ‘Mermaid Avenue’ hit ‘California Stars’, they’re already priming for a much more raucous, ear-shattering finale. First there’s the band’s early hit, ‘Casino Queen’ The swaggering, Stones-like song is beloved by fans, so even Wilco’s customary segue into an odd morphing of Foreigner’s ‘Hot Blooded’ and Deep Purple’s ‘Woman From Tokyo’ is greeted with approval.

The show’s finale features another such transition, with guitarist Jay Bennett playing the opening sequence of The Who’s ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ before the rest of the quintet bashes into the band’s biggest hit so far, ‘Outtasite (Outta Mind)’. With Smashing Pumpkins going out of sight next week, Wilco – with a new album due next year – appear ready to step into the breach as Chicago’s rock ‘n’ roll representatives.

James Brixey