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A&O Ball signs on a second headliner

Dan Murtaugh

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Elliott Smith, the soft-spoken singer and songwriter who gained fame on the soundtrack for “Good Will Hunting,” will open for Wilco at tonight’s A&O Ball at the Riviera Theater, group leaders announced Wednesday.

Smith’s involvement makes this “one of the best concerts A&O has ever done,” said Sarah Alexander, A&O Productions concert director.

“This show will go down in history,” she said.

The concert will be Smith’s first in 2002. He played only nine shows in 2001, according to the fan Web site

Alexander said A&O was able to lure Smith into the show because of the strong relationship she has with Smith’s manager. When Alexander mentioned the possibility of a show with Wilco, Smith agreed.

A&O wasn’t able to announce Smith’s involvement until Wednesday afternoon because the Campus Activities Office had not yet approved the contract, but rumors of his involvement circulated throughout campus during the week.

Some Smith fans thought the billing should be reversed, with Wilco opening the show. Alexander said she booked both acts as “co-headliners,” but Wilco will play last because its album was just released April 23.

The show is open only to Northwestern students, leaving many non-Wildcats out of luck, Alexander said.

“We would probably sell 50,000 tickets if it were open to the public,” she said.

Smith has released five albums, though his most recent, “Figure 8,” was released in 2000. According to the fan Web site, he is at work on his sixth album, which could be released as soon as this summer.

Smith is perhaps best known for his 1997 Academy Award-nominated song “Miss Misery,” which appeared in the movie “Good Will Hunting.” Though the song lost out to Celine Dion’s “Titanic” ballad “My Heart Will Go On,” Smith got to perform on the live telecast.

Caroline Speirs, a Speech freshman, said she discovered Smith from the “Good Will Hunting” soundtrack and has been listening to him ever since. She said she has wanted to see him in concert, but his sparse concert schedule in the past year and a half has kept her from attending.

“I wasn’t sure I was going (to the Wilco concert), but now I’m gonna try to go for sure,” Speirs said.

The concert is A&O’s first of the year, and comes after students criticized the group for a weak year of programming. Last year’s concerts included Bob Dylan, George Clinton and Ben Harper.

Students levying some of the harshest criticisms on the group are holders of the A&O Advantage Card, which cost $50 and offered students free entry into A&O concerts for the year.

Jeff Deutchman, a Speech freshman, had said he wouldn’t be satisfied until he saw a Beatles reunion or Radiohead on campus. But after hearing the news about Smith, he softened his tune.

“I’m not as angry, I’m pleased now. … it’s still not Dylan,” he said.

Tickets to the ball will be available until

4 p.m. at Norris Box Office for $15 to anyone with a WildCARD. Tickets also will be on sale at the Riviera Theater, 4647 N. Racine Ave. in Chicago, before the doors open at 8 p.m.

Concertgoers do not need a WildCARD to get in but do need identification that shows they are at least 18 years old. Any students not yet 18 should contact A&O before the concert.