A Year Later: The Wilco License Plate Incident

Being a Wilco fan in Chicago definitely has it’s perks. Traditionally, Wilco has always tried to keep their hometown gigs as intimate as possible. The exceptions include Lollapalooza in 2006 and 2008, Pritzker Pavilion in 2007 and their two night run at the UIC Pavilion in 2009.

In February 2008, Wilco took up residency at the Riviera Theatre and performed every song from their proper studio albums over five nights. That was an amazing run of shows, but that wouldn’t come close to  last years “Incredible Shrinking Tour” of Chicago.

Wilco began the residency at the gorgeous Civic Opera House on December 12, 2011. The only other time I had been to the venue was for a Sigur Ros show back in 2006. Somehow, I scored fourth row center tickets for the show, which made the show even more exciting for me.

Back in ’05, when I bought my car, I applied for vanity plates with “WILCO” as my top choice. I didn’t think I had a chance, since I live in Chicago, but I figured, why not. To my surprise, it was available and I got it!

A month or so before the show, the State of Illinois sent me new plates. I thought, why not try to get the old plates on stage. I remember being a bit nervous on my way to the show. I wasn’t sure if security would let me bring the plate in, so I jocked it just to be safe. I got in without incident. I had to figure out when would be the best time to get it up on stage.

The band had just finished their set with “A Shot in the Arm” and my friend Jessica Coughlin, who I brought to the show, grabbed the plate and walked up to the front of the stage and placed it right in front of Jeff Tweedy’s monitor.

After the first three songs, I was beginning to wonder if he even saw it or even cared for that matter. But during Tweedy’s guitar solo in “I’m the Man Who Loves You”, he glanced at it twice and before I knew it, he stopped playing, picked it up and started playing his guitar with it. It was one of those “Oh Shit” moments that I will never forget.

If that wasn’t enough, the show ended with Mavis Staples and Nick Lowe joining Wilco for a version of The Band’s “The Weight.”

Check out the video below and around the 3:00 minute mark, he picks up the license plate and plays his “best solo ever!”

 I covered the shows for Hidden Track and you can read all five of my reviews as well as a setlist breakdown.

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