Wilco ‘Kicking Television: Live in Chicago’

 

 

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Company In My Back” (Live Version from Kicking Television) by Wilco

Live albums. They are the most maligned recordings by critics, yet the fans just love them. You don’t believe me? Ask Peter Frampton, The Allman Brothers, Led Zeppelin, Yes, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Neil Young, Neil Diamond, Little Feat, The Who, Lou Reed, Cheap Trick and Kiss to name a few, who have made classic live albums and have benefitted from huge sales. Heck, live albums are so ingrained in our pop culture, that you can probably name each of the live albums I’m referring to above, just by the list of artists.

In the pantheon of music recordings, live albums live kind of a lowly life. For some they are seen as stop-gap product put out by artists who feel the need to keep their brand in the heads of their fans while they take the time to rejuvenate their creative juices between projects. Artists and record companies alike issue them in order to fulfill contracts. Many love live albums because they act as a souvenir and a powerful reminder of a great night out at a concert they’ve been to, or a concert they would have loved to have seen. Then there are those who love them because they provide an opportunity for us to hear a band stretch out and jam the way they never do in the studio, with warts and all.  And when an artist releases a live album, they get to create their own reality, by mixing applause and audience participation wherever they want, in order to heighten the “live” experience.

Perhaps, my favorite of all live albums is Kicking Television by Wilco, which is why I have singled it out for today’s Song Of The Day. The album was recorded over four days at the Vic Theater in Chicago (the band’s home turf) in May of 2005, and captures the group touring behind A Ghost Is Born, one of their best albums. It was also the first tour and record to feature the great guitarist Nels Cline and crucial multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone in the lineup. The addition of these two members had solidified the Wilco lineup, which remains the same to this day. The shows were also filmed for a proposed DVD, but it never came to fruition. While the record focused mainly on material from Ghost and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, it does offer a pretty good representation of what the band was about at the time. It also features some of the walls of feedback the band uses to great effect during performances. The double disc collection features 23 tracks, while the vinyl release adds an additional eight bonus tracks over the four record set.

Another one of the greatest live albums of all time is Talking Heads’ Stop Making Sense which captured the expanded version of the group on tour behind the album Speaking In Tongues. The show was captured on film from the Pantages Theater in Hollywood by Jonathan Demme in what most critics believe to be the very best concert film of all time. Having seen the tour when it came to the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium in New York, I can attest to how great this version of the Heads was at the time.

Critics also generally agree that James Brown’s Live At The Apollo was one of the greatest live recordings of all time. The album was recorded at the Apollo Theater in Harlem in October of 1962, and was released by King Records the following year. Brown funded the recording himself when King records balked at the idea that a live record could make money for the company. While no live album could fully capture the power of the Godfather Of Soul in full action, this album does manage to capture a fair share of the excitement Brown was able to create on stage.

Some of my favorite live albums over the years include Lou Reed’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal from 1974 which also had a sequel from the same New York show in the album Lou Reed Live the following year. David Bowie’s David Live is one the critics particularly hated. The 1974 double album captured from the Tower Theater in Philadelphia while on tour behind Diamond Dogs, was reissued on CD several years ago with the correct running order of the show restored, making it much better listening experience. Then there’s Grateful Dead’s Europe ’72 from the band’s first European tour where they introduced many new songs into their repertoire that are now considered classics. Last year, Grateful Dead productions released all of the concerts from the tour into a mammoth 73 CD set.

There are literally thousands of live albums littering the musical landscape, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the following favorites of mine including Neil Young’s Rust Never Sleeps/Live Rust albums recorded on tour in 1978, Kraftwerk’s Minimum/Maximum recorded in 2004 (it was also one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen for its visuals), Sam Cooke’s Live At The Harlem Square Club 1963, Simon & Garfunkel’s Live In Central Park (mainly because I was there), Roy Orbison’s A Black And White Night (featuring Orbison backed by an all-star band that included Elvis Costello, Tom Waits, Bruce Springsteen, Bonnie Raitt, kd lang, Jackson Browne and many others), Gram Parsons and the Fallen Angels  Live 1973 which was recorded at Ultrasonic Studios in Long Island for broadcast on WLIR FM, John Coltrane’s Live At The Village Vanguard from 1963, Miles Davis’ Complete Cellar Door Recordings from 1970, Bob Marley’s Live from 1976, Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged and Frank Zappa’s Zappa In New York.

OK, so I’ve covered my favorites and purposely excluded some of the classics. What are your favorite live albums and why?

Eric Berman

 

Track Listing

All songs were written by Jeff Tweedy, except where noted.

Disc one

  1. “Misunderstood” – 6:08
  2. “Company in My Back” – 3:44
  3. “The Late Greats” – 2:40
  4. “Hell Is Chrome” (Mikael Jorgensen, Tweedy) – 4:56
  5. “Handshake Drugs” – 6:23
  6. “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” – 6:03
  7. “Shot in the Arm” (Jay Bennett, John Stirratt, Tweedy) – 4:51
  8. “At Least That’s What You Said” – 5:18
  9. “Wishful Thinking” (Glenn Kotche, Tweedy) – 4:26
  10. “Jesus, Etc.” (Bennett, Tweedy) – 4:00
  11. “I’m the Man Who Loves You” (Bennett, Tweedy) – 3:58
  12. “Kicking Television” – 3:03

Disc two

  1. “Via Chicago” – 5:14
  2. “Hummingbird” – 3:19
  3. “Muzzle of Bees” – 4:49
  4. “One by One” (Woody Guthrie, Tweedy) – 3:26
  5. “Airline to Heaven” (Bennett, Guthrie, Tweedy) – 4:41 (
  6. “Radio Cure” (Bennett, Tweedy) – 4:42
  7. “Ashes of American Flags” (Bennett, Tweedy) – 6:03
  8. “Heavy Metal Drummer” – 3:21
  9. “Poor Places” (Bennett, Tweedy) – 5:31
  10. “Spiders (Kidsmoke)” – 11:17
  11. “Comment” (Yusef Rahman, Charles Wright) – 6:13

Personnel

  • Jeff Tweedy – vocals, guitar
  • John Stirratt – bass guitar, backing vocals
  • Glenn Kotche – drums, percussion
  • Nels Cline – guitar, lap steel guitar
  • Pat Sansone – guitar, keyboards, backing vocals
  • Mikael Jorgensen – keyboards
  • Patrick Newbery – trumpet, flugelhorn
  • Nick Broste – trombone
  • Rick Parenti – baritone sax
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Here is Eric Berman’s Song of the Day

Here’s a bunch more from the double disc release!

Posted by Larry Carta

9 Comments

  1. Eric Berman (23 Jan 2013, 22:22)
    Reply

    Forgot to mention Gentle Giant’s 1976 live album “PLaying The Fool,” another solid contender for one of the greatest live albums of all time.

  2. Larry Carta (24 Jan 2013, 0:17)
    Reply

    My all time favorite live album is Genesis “Seconds Out.” It capture flawlessly a great era of the band. No PG wasn’t on it, but I think their playing was never better. Especially on the tracks that Chester Thompson was part of. I saw you mentioned Lynyrd Skynrd. That’s another classic, I actually like The Outlaws live album “One More From the Road” from that era even more. I believe because they were more country rock than straight southern rock at the time.

    Other ones I love are NRBQ “God Bless us All.” Dave Mason “Certified Live/” Heartsfield “Live in ’75.” J Geils Band “Full House” Poco “Live 1971” Peter Gabriel “Plays Live” Three Dog Night “Around the World With” Nanci Griffith “One Faire Summer Evening” oh heck I can go on an on….

  3. Rob Henry (24 Jan 2013, 14:28)
    Reply

    I have to jump in on this because Im one of the few who actually love live albums – and yes you hit some of the best but left out a few of my favorites.
    The Allman Brothers ~ At Fillmore East – has to be at the top of my list –
    The Who Live at Leeds – frankly I prefer the original vinyl to the expanded reissues – no need to fool with a classic.
    Little Feat ~ Waiting for Columbus – Lowell George and Band with the Tower or Power Horns –
    The Band – Rock of Ages – Better the the Last Waltz
    Delaney & Bonnie and Frieds on tour with Eric Clapton – the title pretty much says all you need to know
    Joe Cocker – Mad Dogs and Englishmen – for so many reasons…
    Nils Lofgrens – Authorized bootleg – is for me as good as it gets – although it was live in a studio not a full fledged concert.
    Larry mentioned the NRBQ God Bless us all but I love to round out that suggestion with their next CD that was recorded the same weekend Diggin’ Uncle Q
    I would also include both Of Johnny Cash’s prison live albums, Benny Goodman’s 1938 Carnagie Hall Jazz concert
    While not Full live albums the live parts of the Byrds Untitled and Quicksilver Messenger’s Service Happy Trails deserve to be mentioned in the discussion too
    Maybe not in the all time greats but pretty damn good would include the John Fullbright – Live at the Blue Door and the first Hot Tuna album and Warren Zevon’s Stand in the fire is a lot of fun too

  4. mark bednar (24 Jan 2013, 15:21)
    Reply

    i personally love david live and think it’s probably the best live album. the versions are different enough to warrant existing — my biggest gripe about live albums is they’re studio recordings w/ crowd noise (most of them).

    also love stones’ get yer ya-ya’s out. probably the ONLY good live stones album.

    and u2’s under a blood red sky is obviously amazing. better versions here than on the studio versions in probably every case.

  5. Stephen dalrymple (24 Jan 2013, 16:08)
    Reply

    The greatest live album ever recorded , and i can’t believe no-one’s mentioned it yet , is “It’s Too Late To Stop Now ‘ by Van Morrison.
    Other favourites :
    Ramones “Its Alive”
    AC/DC “If You Want Blood”
    Mark Eitzel “Songs Of Love”
    Bob Dylan “Live 1975 , The Rolling Thunder Revue (Bootleg Series Volume 5)”
    Bruce Springsteen “Live At The Main Point 1975”

  6. Jeff Fabian (24 Jan 2013, 18:26)
    Reply

    First,, in my opinion “Stop Making Sense” isn’t even Talking Heads’ best live album. “The Name of this Band is Talking Heads” is one of my favorite albums (live or otherwise). I actually prefer just about every cut on the live album to its studio counterpart. Incredible.

    I agree with you on Kicking Television though. Simllar sentiments to “The Name of This Band”

    A couple of tothers that I haven”t seen mentioned:

    CSNY – 4 Way Street – great jams on Southern Man and Carry On

    Elton John – 11/17/70 – bass, drums, & piano before wardrobe took center stage.

  7. Eric Berman (24 Jan 2013, 23:08)
    Reply

    Ooo…forgot two of the best…”Woodstock” and “Mad Dogs And Englishmen”

  8. Wayne Gucker (26 Jan 2013, 12:12)
    Reply

    One of my top 10 albums of all time, Humble Pie’s Rockin’ The Fillmore. Peter Frampton and Jerry Shirley are currently redoing it to include all 4 shows from the run, in their entirety!

    When you’re in a metal mood, Iron Maiden’s Live After Death certainly satisfies.

    Jeff had the right idea with CSNY. Those are the definitive readings of Southern Man and Carry On. Bravo on the Elton pick, as well. The complete Captain Fantastic live in ’75 from the UK included with the deluxe reissue edition of that album is also quite amazing.

  9. Rich Pond (26 Jan 2013, 16:44)
    Reply

    ‘Slade Alive’ people! Slade were snotty and punk before there was punk, and this features the all time best recorded version of ‘Darling Be Home Soon’. Another obscure gem is ‘Peter Frampton Live in San Francisco’, recorded live in studio for KSAN just months before the release of ‘Frampton Comes Alive’. Peter was already a headliner and getting lots of FM airplay in the SF Bay area (I know, I was there), and this raw, intimate recording is a truer representation of the talent and live chops that propelled him to pop stardom, and sustained a career after the pop thing imploded.

    Also got to give a shout out to a live one from another 70’s guitar god, ‘Rory Gallagher Irish Tour ’74’. Lot’s of great stuff here, and Rory cannot be acknowledged enough.



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