Sunday, October 10th, 2004
All These Telescopic Poems
So you think I’d be excited for last night’s Wilco concert at Massey Hall, right? And I was, very much so, but I was also apprehensive. After all – this show was coming barely two months after their Mod Club show, which I declared “the best show I have ever seen”… what could they do for an encore?
It’s probably a good thing that Massey Hall is a dramatically different venue from The Mod Club – by virtue of the environment, a different sort of vibe was almost guaranteed. Besides having almost five times the capacity, it’s also a proper seated theatre with the best sound in the city. However, that much-vaunted sound system seemed woefully absent when the band took the stage at nine sharp. Howling feedback punctuated the first three songs of the set, prompting Jeff Tweedy to fess up that the band had, in fact, skipped soundcheck that day and was now paying the price for their laziness. Sheepishly apologizing and promising an extra-long set to compensate, they let the sound crew sort things out and carried on with no more sonic gremlinery.
That did, however, set the tone for a most peculiar evening. After Mikael Jorgenson accidentally triggered the sample opening for “Shot In The Arm” one song too early, Jeff jokingly apologized for “the least professional show of this tour”. He also had to deal with an audience member who chose to run right to the front of the stage and try to engage Jeff in… something. Jeff was clearly perplexed by the incident and the mook stood there for all of “Hell Is Chrome” only to be shooed back to his seat by security after some of his buddies joined him up front. Otherwise they just seemed to be having a good time on this, the second-last stop on this leg of their North American tour. I was mildly disappointed that the setlist was very similar to the August show (last night’s setlist vs August’s setlist), but I suppose that it was only fair since more than 2000 of the people in attendance hadn’t been at that show and hadn’t seen the Ghost material performed live yet.
Things got more interesting in the first encore, which consisted of the two most contentious songs from A Ghost Is Born. “Less Than You Think” was a revelation, performed as a beautiful country-ish lament worlds removed from the static-y sonic experiment of its album form. The still managed to tack several minutes of noise onto the end, however, before launching into “Spiders” – ably performed but not as incendiary as the Mod Club show. The second encore consisted mainly of Mermaid Avenue material (in addition to “The Late Greats”) but the main highlight was the guest appearance on keys by Garth Hudson of The Band. The final encore, kept short by a firm curfew from the venue, paired up the rocktacular “I’m A Wheel” with the gorgeously pensive Bill Fay number “Be Not So Fearful”, which was an election-year dedication to any Americans in the audience.
So all in all – better than the August show? No. A disappointment? God no. It was still a superbly entertaining concert and if anything, it made me appreciate the opportunity I had to see them really tear it up in a club setting. I can’t imagine they’ll be playing anything smaller than theatres in the forseeable future. I will say this about a seated theatre, though – it’s much easier to get good low light photographs (less moving around), though it does limit the number of vantage points you have for getting shots. Being front row certainly helps, of course… Check em out.
np – The Fiery Furnaces / Blueberry Boat