Review: Wilco & Califone at Overture Hall Madison

I’m one of those people that like Wilco, but never had the band at the top of my list for a must-see show. That all changed Saturday night as Jeff Tweedy and company proved that through eight albums and numerous personnel changes they can still put on a flawless two-plus hour show that leaves the audience wanting more.


Don’t get me wrong. There were plenty of die-hard Tweedy, I mean Wilco fans at Overture Hall. You know the type; Dissertation-type analysis of Tweedy’s lyrics; own every type of merchandise available with Wilco stamped on it; revel in one-upmanship of how many Wilco shows they’ve seen.  No, not the characteristics of a jam band fan. These are hard-core Wilco fans. The type that has kept the band’s shows selling out despite a couple of rather unremarkable studio albums over the last three years.

You could tell that Tweedy and company were definitively “on” at Overture Hall. From Handshake drugs and California Stars to the new songs off the latest album, Wilco propelled the audience into a shared bonding experience. The ability to shape the intensity of songs by feeding off the energy of  2,200 people was remarkable. Now, I see the power of Wilco in concert.

About the only thing that didn’t go the band’s way was Tweedy’s request to receive the keys to the city from Madison’s Mayor, after receiving the honor in Duluth, MN the night before. Maybe next time.

Chicago’s Califone opened the show with a short 30 minute set of experimental folk that displayed the band’s diversity of instrumentation and song structure.
Overture Hall is gaining a reputation as a great venue to see a show. Excellent sight lines and acoustics contribute to an overall great listening experience. The number of Chicago Wilco fans that made the trek to Madison to see the show was incredible. I don’t know how many times I had to explain to our Illinois friends what a sippy cup was.





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