Live Review: Wilco, New York City, Oct. 12, 2019

For my 20th Wilco show in 20 years, it was a veritable feast to see and hear the band at Radio City Music Hall, one of the most breathtaking spaces I’ve ever been in. With incredible acoustics and views from the lofty third mezzanine, in addition to the art-deco delights throughout the venue, I never wanted to leave.

The concert itself was first rate, beginning with Daughter Of Swords’ astounding opening set, in which folk singer Alexandra Sauser-Monnig filled the cavernous room with only her flute-like voice and her delicate acoustic guitar—and even more so on a number of a cappella tunes.

Wilco’s set was pretty standard Wilco fare, which is to say an excellent mix of songs that speak to my soul (“Via Chicago,” “Reservations,” “How To Fight Loneliness”), solid staples (“War On War,” “Impossible Germany,” “Bull Black Nova,” “Random Name Generator”), A Ghost Is Born tracks I don’t always connect with but did at Radio City Music Hall (“Handshake Drugs,” “At Least That’s What You Said,” “Theologians”) and new material.

It was that new material—eight songs from Ode To Joy—that formed the spine of the show, and if none of them has yet lodged too deep in my soul or too firmly in my mind, they were all played with conviction and sounded in line with what I seek from Wilco at this point in its evolution and mine.

Introspective, empathetic and outwardly calm, “Everyone Hides,” “White Wooden Cross, “Hold Me Anyway” and “Love Is Everywhere (Beware)” capture a desperation to be OK in a world that isn’t, and if they lack the drama of unplayed faves like “Art Of Almost” or “A Shot In The Arm,” they do a better job of embodying this moment, being here rather than being there—whether “there” is an amphitheater in Raleigh, N.C., in 1999 or Central Park in 2003, in a North Adams, Mass., field filled with devoted Wilco fans this summer or all alone in my dorm room playing a pre-release promo CD of A.M. in 1995.

Being here is a bummer, being here is a thrill; being here is unattainable, unsustainable and all there is. Being here—where “here” is the highest section of Radio City Music Hall on a beautiful autumn night in October 2019—is absolutely perfect and will never happen again and will happen in my head, albeit in fragmented form, whenever I want.

—M.J. Fine; photos by Chris Sikich

Live Review: Rhett Miller, Philadelphia, Oct. 23, 2019

In his first appearance at Philly’s new City Winery, Rhett Miller treated the toasty crowd to rarities like “Meteor Shower” and “Beer Cans,” reminisced about bonding with Dolly Parton over their beauty marks and dorking out on the phone with Ric Ocasek, and gave the Cars’ “My Best Friend’s Girl” an alt-country makeover.

Though he fumbled a bit with the lyrics to “Fair Enough,” Miller remembered an impressive number of words from songs scattered across Old 97’s and solo albums, and he seemed to draw them out as if to savor every incisive verse, unusual vocabulary choice and sly rhyme. It was a gambit that worked to put the focus back on Miller’s songwriting skills while simultaneously using his limber vocals to maximum effect without being too showy about it.

Highlights included staples like “Stoned,” “Doreen” and “Longer Than You’ve Been Alive,” as well as more recent subversions like “Good With God,” “Jesus Loves You” and “The Human Condition.”

—M.J. Fine; photos by Chris Sikich

Lights Out: UFO Says Goodbye To New York City With Help From Last In Line

51 years into a career that helped define British hard rock throughout the ’70s, UFO is calling its quits. Phil Moog and Co. played Sony Hall in NYC as part of its Last Orders tour. Opening was Last In Line, the band formed by Def Leppard’s Vivian Campbell in 2012 and featuring the original lineup of Dio (following Ronnie James’ death). MAGNET photographer Wes Orshoski was there and feeling the galactic love.

Last In Line

Live Review: Team Dresch, Screaming Females, Des Ark, Philadelphia, Oct. 3, 2019

Where better to be on Donna Dresch’s 53rd birthday than finally seeing Team Dresch, 20-plus years after I fell for Kaia Wilson’s solo album and gradually burrowed deep into her back pages?

At Union Transfer in Philly, the band was every bit as inspiring as its legend, blazing through queercore classics like “Fagetarian And Dyke,” “Uncle Phranc” and ”She’s Amazing” (which Wilson dedicated to Dresch) with utter confidence, playfulness and emotional depth.

In recognition of Team Dresch’s literally lifesaving power, Des Ark came out of retirement to pay tribute with a thunderous (if too short) opening set; full-band workouts of “Some Are Love” and “Ashley’s Song” were mighty and moving, but Aimee Argote’s solo performance of “Girls Get Ruff” was quietly devastating.

In between, Screaming Females could be counted on to deliver a batch of excellent, efficient tunes that sounded downright pop in context, masterfully orchestrating a sea of heads bobbing in unison.

Nothing but awe, all night long.

—M.J. Fine

Screaming Females
Des Ark

Still Kicking Up A Racket: Stiff Little Fingers Celebrate 40 Years Of “Inflammable Material”

Stiff Little Fingers celebrated the 40th anniversary of debut album Inflammable Material with a U.S. tour. At Brooklyn’s Warsaw, the Northern Ireland punk legends (they put the “fast” in Belfast, you know) played the landmark LP in its entirety, bookended by other highlights from their career. MAGNET photographer Wes Orshoski was there to see SLF still kick up a racket.