Home / Wilco – Kicking Television: Live in Chicago

Wilco – Kicking Television: Live in Chicago

Please Share...Print this pageTweet about this on TwitterShare on Facebook0Share on Google+0Pin on Pinterest0Share on Tumblr0Share on StumbleUpon0Share on Reddit0Email this to someone

Spinning out webs of deductions and melodies on a private beach in Michigan

Some things are so good you don’t want to spoil them all at once. I’ve had books that were this good – so good that I didn’t want to rush through to the end, opting instead to dole out the pages at a leisurely pace, preferring to read at just the right time when I could really take it all in. And this is an album that falls in this category – regardless of it being live, regardless of it being filled with songs I already know (aside from one,) I want to let each moment breathe and be something special for fear that if I rush through to hear it all I’ll somehow spoil it. And so the truth is that while I’ve listened to almost nothing but Kicking Television since Tuesday morning, I’ve yet to actually hear the whole thing – when I’ve gotten distracted for any period of time, I’ve restarted listening to it from the beginning.

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 this 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 “giving a sense of the audience, a sense of the time and place.” It’s a real shame not getting to see this band performing this material, but I have no doubt in the future we’ll get some live video from them.)

Visit me at knownjohnson.com

Powered by

About Tom Johnson

  • DJRadiohead

    Tom, I am glad someone reviewed this one. I don’t have it yet. When I get home and get 20 seconds or so I am going to actually read the review. Just wanted to stop in and post a sort of BC ‘IOU.’

  • Paying off my marker:

    Excellent review, Tom. I understand what you mean about savoring the moment. There are some albums that just too good to swallow whole in one sitting.

    I have this album on my Christmas list. I got to listen to “Summer Teeth” this morning at work. While I understand and agree with the accolades this current incarnation of the band is getting I do sometimes miss what I consider the more ‘song-oriented’ version of the band. “YHF” and “AGIB” are great albums. “ST” and “BT” have some seriously great songs. You’ve whetted my appetite for this album now.

    Now if we can just get artists to give us a single-show live album we will be in business.

  • 50 million BC-members/visitors and Tom and I are the only Wilco fans?

    No wonder the pop charts have such sparse quality.

  • Nope. I want this cd too. I just added it to my Amazon list and will blog about it – and link here – tomorrow.


  • Well now there are at least four of us. Good review, Tom.

    ViaChicago Torrents has some great live Wilco material available. Nothing officially released, just fan recorded live gigs that the band sanctions.

  • Thanks for the heads up on that, Mat.

    I love ‘official’ live albums from a sonics perspective. I just wish more bands would go ‘sinlge show.’

    Can’t wait for this one, really.

  • Tom

    Mat – thanks for the link (and compliment)! I’ve downloaded a number of amazing Wilco bootlegs and can vouch for the quality. Wilco’s one band that’s not afraid of allowing soundboard patches for tapers, so with a little digging it’s pretty easy to track down some of the highest quality non-official (but band-backed) bootlegs out there.

    DJRadiohead – thanks for the compliments. How can you possibly wait for Christmas?!

  • It’s not my idea to wait until Christmas (that can be blamed on the wife to whom I am married).

  • Nice review, Tom. Which songs on the albums struck you as the best performed live? Or rather ‘best of the best’ (i.e. variations from the album version that succeeded, etc.)

    I had the privilege to catch Wilco live last New Year’s Eve, and was blown away. Worth every penny.

  • So I convinced her I couldn’t wait until Christmas and I am listening right now.

  • Nik

    I’ve got this on order and am eager to check it out. I’m hopeful the “Ghost is Born” songs sound stronger than they did on the record; I’ve tried mightily but can only really get into about half the songs on that album. I keep hearing they’re amazing live, though.

  • How much do I love this band? I bought this album for my brother, sister and friend without even hearing it.
    I bought myself a copy and am listening to it now for only the second time and – as expected – it kicks serious butt.

    I’ll write up a review on it later in the month.

  • Tom–I’ve been leaning toward getting this, and you clinched the deal for me. “Being There” is a high point for me, but I think “Summerteeth” often gets overlooked as perhaps their best effort.

  • Yankee hotel foxtrot is their best,i think

  • I agree with GoHah about the merits of “Summerteeth.” What a terrific record.

    I dusted Kicking Television off today (meaning I had the urge to queue it up on my iPod). What a great live album this is. It is odd… to me there are not that many standout moments on the set but rather the entire performance is just incredible. If I had to pick one, I think “Poor Places” might be it. They are playing the Ryman in Nashville soon. I might have to try and score some tickets.

  • Scott Butki

    I’m definitely going to see them live next time they come to Baltimore or DC.

    Have you watched the documentary about them? The best part about it is showing how many different ways they approach the same song, trying it faster, slower, etc.