Saturday, June 21st, 2003
Tonight was the fourth time I’ve seen Wilco in the past four years. They’re pretty firmly ensconced as my favorite band in the world right now, and every show is always cause for excitement and anticipation.
Opening quietly with a set of Mermaid Avenue tunes, the set consisted of mostly Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and Being There material, with a handful of new tunes in the mix. The new songs were the most exciting part of the evening – they’re fantastic. Who knows if the arrangements will stay the same when they record them, but the new record could be even better than YHF, and considering how much I love that record, that’s some high praise. Curiously, they filled the whole show without playing a single number off of A.M. or Summerteeth. It says something about a band that can play for two hours and still leave you feeling like you’ve only had a sampler of their repetoire.
Jeff ran through a dizzying array of guitars through the show (I counted six electrics and at least two acoustics – he’s on a Gibson kick, it seems) and Leroy Bach’s role has been augmented by a second touring keyboardist. Ex-Wilco touring member and local boy Bob Egan, now of Blue Rodeo, was invited out to play some tasteful lead slide on “California Stars”, as he was a couple years ago at the Phoenix show.
Maybe the biggest surprise on the night was the sound – usually the Kool Haus is a terrible room for harsh and muddy sound (yes, harsh and muddy at the same time) but there was some aural magic going on tonight cause the sound was the best I’ve ever heard in that room. Every word of the vocals were loud and clear and the intstruments (mostly) perfectly balanced. At points the ambient synth pings and bloops weren’t sitting properly in the mix and as a result sounded odd and out of place, but not distractingly so.
I want to backpedal a bit on my comments about From Fiction. While on paper it still seems like a damn odd pairing, it actually wasn’t a terrible mismatch. There’s some definite common ground between some of what From Fiction were doing and Wilco’s jammier, noisier bits. It’s also worth taking into account that Wilco’s been on tour for the last while with Sonic Youth – that’s gotta figure into it. It was a great opportunity for a local band, and I’m damn jealous.
Thumbs down to the frat-boy jock types that insisted on going, “Whooooo!” at every opportunity (which to them was every second they weren’t swilling a beer) as if Jeff Tweedy was going to come into the audience and high five them. Shut the fuck up, nimrods. Also in the “boo” column, $40 t-shirts. The sound may have been better, but DAMN I still hate the Kool Haus.
UPDATE – Here’s the setlist from the show:
One By One / When The Roses Bloom Again / Bob Dylan’s 49th Beard / I Am Trying to Break Your Heart / Muzzle of Bees / At Least That’s What You Said / War on War / Jesus, etc. / Ashes of American Flags / Heavy Metal Drummer / Spiders / Red Eyed and Blue / Got You At The End Of The Century / I’m The Man Who Loves You / Poor Places / Reservations //
Encore 1: Sunken Treasure / Less Than You Think / California Stars //
Encore 2: Misunderstood / Kicking Television / Monday / Outtasite (Outtamind)