It's funny how things happen. I hadn't planned on going to see Wilco yesterday in Toronto at Massey Hall because I had already seen them in August at The Mod Club Theatre and I thought nothing could top that. However, with friends busy and nothing to do on a Saturday night, I made the last minute decision yesterday to head down to Massey Hall to buy a ticket to the show at the box-office which I knew wasn't yet sold out. I made it down to the venue just before 8 pm and decided to try buying a ticket from a scalper to see if I could get anything half decent for a good price. For the $40 I was willing to spend, the only thing that one scalper could offer me was 'gallery' seating. Firstly, it was about $5 less than the face value of the ticket, and secondly, I figured that what he had to offer might be a little better than what the box office had to offer, so with those facts in mind, I handed him the $40 and bought the ticket. This was the first time in my concert-going experience that I ever bought a ticket from a scalper, and I was happy at the very least to not have been swindled.
Another first for me was that this was the first time I ever was in Massey Hall. It's funny how the place is just down Shuter St. from The Eaton Centre and I never knew it was there. Even stranger is that Massey Hall has eluded me all those years I've been going to concerts. It's quite a nicer venue than I'm used to. It's a music hall with ground floor seating, second level balcony seating and third level gallery seating. It's not as extravagant a venue as say Spreckels Theatre in San Diego where I had seen Belle and Sebastian this past May, but Massey Hall is quite nice in it's own quaint little way. My seat was in the third level gallery section on the left side of the stage. I had enough of a view that I could see about 75% of the stage.
The first band of the night were The Priscillas who chromewaves notes are "a group of local scenesters (Tara from Elevator, Colleen from By Divine Right) who don beehive wigs and perform covers and originals". I was quite taken by their music which seemed to combine K Records-influenced girl-pop, country music overtones, and 60's girl group ambience. The beehive wigs and kitschy dresses aside, the music was really fun and catchy. The female vocals and harmonizing were attractive. At one point in their set, some dude yelled out to them to play "something good", and the lead vocalist humourously responded "well then you've come to the wrong place". Can't speak for everyone, but I enjoyed The Priscillas very much.
I realized yesterday that the Massey Hall experience of seeing Wilco live was going to be alot different than the intimate club show experience of when I saw Wilco live at The Mod Club Theatre in August. As much as I enjoyed The Mod Club show, I enjoyed the Massey Hall show even better, considering I had third level gallery seating. So rather than having to stand up for an entire show amongst a sweaty crowd of other concert goers, I enjoyed the relative comfort of my seat, gazing down to the stage and the sea of people around the hall. It wasn't about being up close to the band(although that would have been nice also). It was about ambience. It was about letting the music just wash over me. I had a good enough view that I could see most of the stage and the video screen projections behind the band. Half the time I couldn't even see Jeff unless I leaned over the edge of my seat but it wasn't a big deal to me. Jeff seemed to be in good humour yesterday evening, talking to the crowd and making jokes, which in my opinion went great lengths to draw the crowd into the performance, given the size of the venue. The band experienced some technical difficulties during the first part of the show and Jeff had joked that they hadn't done a sound check, so to make up for it they were going to play an extra long set. The acoustics in the hall were excellent and the music took on more grandiose proportions; for example on "At Least That's What You Said", its quieter moments were quite pretty as the sound seemed to echo and fill every nook and cranny of the venue, while the song's guitar assaults seemed to rock the very foundations of the place. Most of the songs during the set were culled from "A Ghost is Born" and "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot", but thankfully the band played this time, "I'm Always In Love" from "Summerteeth", which the band hadn't played at The Mod Club Theatre. The band played a solid two hour set, including three encores. The first encore was the 'rock' set as the band played some extended jam sessions. The second encore was the 'folkier' set as the band delved into some quieter numbers including "Mermaid Avenue" session track "California Stars". At the end of the night, Jeff expressed a sentiment about the upcoming U.S. election in a very non-political way by wishing us Canadians could vote in the election. It wasn't about flag waving and partisanship. It was about being concerned about an uncertain future. Poignantly, and appropriately perhaps, Wilco ended the night with a cover of a song called "Be Not So Fearful". [not much in the realm of photos since I was too far from the stage, but here's a handful that I took that I touched up].