Though I love going to live shows, I am pretty picky about what shows I am actually willing to spend money on. There are a few exceptions, but they are usually few and far between, and most of the time they are due to the cheapness of the ticket. However, there are many bands and artists that I am willing to shell out good amounts of cash in order to see live. In these cases, I go into the show will pretty high expectations of what I will experience, which means that I will be fairly anxious and excited (leading to getting to shows much earlier than necessary). More times than not, my expectations are met, though there have been the occasional performances that I have left feeling extremely disappointed. Then there are the shows where my expectations are not only met, but also exceeded.
I saw Wilco for the first time on July 25th at Terminal 5 in New York City. I am ashamed to say that I have only recently gotten into the band within the last two years, but that’s for another entry. I knew that the band was excellent live, based on their live album, Kicking Television, videos I’ve seen online, and from testimonials from friends. So the bar was already set fairly high.
I came out of the show in a state of ecstatic disbelief.
The musical execution was impeccable. The lighting during the show was mesmerizing. The band had incredible stage presence, and they seemed to be genuinely having a great time on stage. Add in a 28 song, two and a half hour setlist that was filled with, as lead singer/guitarist Jeff Tweedy announced, songs the band doesn’t play very often, and you get a pretty amazing show.
Here are a few thoughts and observations from the show:
- The band opened with the rambling, laidback 12 minute closer from their most recent release, The Whole Love, “One Sunday Morning (Song For Jane Smiley’s Boyfriend),” and then followed it up with the album’s chaotic opener, “Art of Almost.” That’s pretty awesome, in my book.
- Glenn Kotche is now one of my favorite drummers. I knew the guy was good, but hot damn, this guy can play. His playing is effortless, though his beats can be incredibly complicated. And even though he plays with a lot of energy, his dynamics are some of the best I’ve ever seen live from a drummer, and my brother agreed.
- Nels Cline is one helluva guitar player. Just insane playing and intense energy on stage.
- The setlist was a bit all over the place in terms of the tone and energy of the songs, but I thought it was reflective of the band as a whole, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Also, the fact that the songs were pulled from their entire catalog, with many of the songs coming from their earlier material, is something that is always super enjoyable for me.
- The crowd was not as energetic as I thought they would be, especially during the more up-tempo songs. They clapped enthusiastically after each song, as well as when they were asked to clap along, but the energy was definitely a lot lower than it should’ve been.
There is no doubt in my mind that, barring the breakup of the band, I will see Wilco again in concert. This show was just too damn good to never let that happen. This was one of the best shows I’ve seen in the past few years, and I’m sure I didn’t even see the best the band has to offer. I apologize for the brevity of the review, but I just don’t have the time to go into the amount of detail that this show deserves. Just understand that it was truly amazing. I highly suggest seeing Wilco live, if you have the chance, or at the very least, start listening to their music. If you don’t believe me, ask my brother who had never listened to the band before the show and came away very impressed. They are easily one of the best bands on the planet right now.
Setlist (from wilcoworld.net):
01 – One Sunday Morning (Song For Jane Smiley’s Boyfriend) – The Whole Love
02 – Art of Almost – The Whole Love
03 – I Might – The Whole Love/I Might 7”
04 – At Least That’s What You Said – A Ghost is Born
05 – She’s a Jar – Summerteeth
06 – Kamera – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
07 – Can’t Stand It – Summerteeth
08 – Too Far Apart – A.M.
09 – What’s The World Got in Store – Being There
10 – Impossible Germany – Sky Blue Sky
11 – Born Alone – The Whole Love
12 – Capitol City – The Whole Love
13 – Laminated Cat (aka Not For The Season) – Loose Fur (Loose Fur)
14 – Summer Teeth – Summerteeth
15 – Whole Love – The Whole Love
16 – Theologians – A Ghost is Born
17 – I’m the Man Who Loves You – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
18 – Dawned On Me – The Whole Love
19 – Shot in the Arm – Summerteeth
20 – Passenger Side – A.M.
21 – Casino Queen – A.M.
22 – Candyfloss – Summerteeth
23 – Hesitating Beauty – Mermaid Avenue (Billy Bragg & Wilco)
24 – A Magazine Called Sunset – Australian EP
25 – Kicking Television – Kicking Television: Live in Chicago
26 – The Late Greats – A Ghost is Born
27 – Dreamer in My Dreams – Being There
28 – The Lonely 1 – Being There