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Wilco — 16 December 2019, Chicago IL (Chicago Theatre) [Winterlude Night 2 of 4]


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#1 bböp

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Posted 17 December 2019 - 01:56 AM

Look, I get why Wilco has chosen to play the Chicago Theatre for the last couple editions of its hometown Winterlude residency. It’s an iconic venue in the heart of the city, more or less the right size and has a good-sounding PA system. But honestly, does any room in town consistently draw a lamer or more clueless audience?

As evidence, consider some of the things people did and said on the second night of Winterlude 2019:

*Someone in the front row repeatedly took selfies with their back to the stage, much to Jeff’s consternation. “Are you done taking selfies?” he asked the person prior to starting White Wooden Cross. “I feel like I’m at an apehouse and I’m the ape and I’m about to fling my feces. I don’t know why I find it irksome, but I find it irksome. I realize it’s probably a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take pictures with an ape…but let’s get back to our regularly programmed sadness.”

*A wiseguy apparently requested “Freebird” during a break between songs. “According to the Geneva Convention, if someone yells ‘Freebird,’ we’re allowed to stop the show right there,” Jeff quipped. “No refunds.” 1) People still do this? 2) WTF?

*A guy near me shouted for the band to play Kingpin after Jeff once again invited support act and “one of our heroes” Robyn Hitchcock to return to the stage during the encore. Uhhh yeah, they brought Robyn Hitchcock back to sing...Kingpin. #whatadope

*Two men behind me in the merch line discussed Hitchcock and his connection to R.E.M. (in part through having recorded and toured with the likes of Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey.) “Remember R.E.M.?” one said to the other. “They were pretty big once.”

*A woman next to me to her friend, in a disappointing tone, after Hitchcock fronted Wilco on unique show-closing covers of I Am The Walrus and I Wanna Destroy You: “But they didn’t play California Stars.”

I could go on, and I haven’t even mentioned the steady chatter I could hear around me (and others told me they heard around them), but you hopefully get the picture. And when people were paying attention, many of them didn’t seem like they were particularly into the show either. For instance, surveying the relatively sedate crowd in front of me during songs like Laminated Cat or I Got You (At The End of the Century), I personally longed for the days of the residencies at the Riviera or Vic Theatres when you walked out tired and sweaty and feeling the exhilaration that comes after a great rock show. I can’t honestly say I felt that tonight, which I’m sort of sad to say.

Not that I didn’t enjoy the concert, not that Wilco didn’t put on a good show and not that there weren’t more than a few highlights. One came when the band returned for the encore with a new drummer in tow — namely, Spencer Tweedy. Jeff informed the crowd that Spencer was celebrating his 24th birthday and that 11 years earlier, when he turned 13, Spencer had sat in on this same song (The Late Greats) at Madison Square Garden when Wilco was opening for Neil Young. “This is pretty cool, too,” Jeff said on Spencer’s behalf, and led the crowd in singing happy birthday to his elder son before they started the tune. (Afterward, Glenn returned to the stage and gave Spencer a big hug as they crossed paths behind the drum kit. As Glenn resumed his regular position, Jeff quipped, “This is Glenn’s 25th birthday.”)

And of course, we got yet another surprise — and highlight — when Hitchcock (in a fresh magenta shirt) returned to the stage. After a momentary hiccup at the start, he and the band quickly got in sync and took a run at another Beatles psychedelic classic, I Am The Walrus. If I’m not mistaken, it’s the first time Wilco has played it. (Coincidentally, I had seen Hitchcock close a show with Walrus 10 days ago with his current band, the Nashville Fabs, in which Pat plays bass.) Then Wilcock/Hitchco closed the show, as they did on Night 1, with a performance of Hitchcock’s own I Wanna Destroy You. “Thanks for having me, chaps,” Hitchcock said before the final number. “It’s been a groove.”

By my count, eight of the 25 songs in the main set (and 11 of 30 overall) were different than Night 1, which isn’t bad when you consider that at least seven or eight OTJ songs are going to be repeated each night and at least another seven or eight of the “greatest hits” (Impossible Germany, Via Chicago, Jesus, etc.) as well. It seems to me that Jeff basically took the same approach to these shows’ setlists as he did to last month’s three-night run in St. Paul, Minn. So you can probably expect songs like How To Fight Loneliness, Dawned On Me, An Empty Corner, Kamera, One Wing and I'm A Wheel, among others, to make an appearance at some point over the final two shows.

From a banter standpoint, Jeff tried to make a joke early on about this being “the 24-hour anniversary of our last performance,” which he has done since the much-ballyhooed 25th anniversary of Wilco’s first-ever live show last month. But in this case, he had to self-correct when he realized that statement wasn’t even true because the band had played a small pop-up show earlier in the day.

Anyway, I’m probably missing some details so hopefully others will fill in the blanks. I definitely agree with those who have said that the OTJ material comes off better live, generally speaking, so if this Winterlude gives local folks a chance to hear (and warm up to) that stuff, then I suppose it’s more or less mission accomplished as far as the band is concerned.

Maybe that’s the sign of “a mature band,” as one friend described Wilco after tonight’s show. But whether it’s just the natural progression of things or if the venue — and the type of people it generally seems to attract — has something to do with it, I have to admit that at least a small part of me pined for something a little more immature.

Here was the complete setlist, as played, for Night 2 of Winterlude 2019 (there were no changes from the printed list):

Bright Leaves
Before Us
Company In My Back
War On War
If I Ever Was A Child
Handshake Drugs
At Least That's What You Said
One and a Half Stars
The Joke Explained
Hummingbird
White Wooden Cross
Via Chicago
Laminated Cat (aka Not For The Season)
Random Name Generator
Passenger Side
Love Is Everywhere (Beware)
Impossible Germany
Forget The Flowers
Box Full Of Letters
Everyone Hides
Jesus, etc.
Heavy Metal Drummer
I'm The Man Who Loves You
Hold Me Anyway
Misunderstood
---------------------------------
—happy birthday sung to Spencer Tweedy—
The Late Greats (w/Spencer Tweedy on drums)
Red-Eyed and Blue>
I Got You (At The End of the Century)
I Am The Walrus [The Beatles] (w/Robyn Hitchcock on vocals)
I Wanna Destroy You [The Soft Boys] (w/Robyn Hitchcock on vocals)

#2 Albert Tatlock

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Posted 17 December 2019 - 08:11 AM

I too am all about the immature (if that needed restating). Ta.



#3 jff

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Posted 17 December 2019 - 08:50 AM

Sounds like the Chicago Theater audience is similar to the audience they draw in Atlanta when they play The Fox and Chastain Park.



#4 Pezish

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Posted 17 December 2019 - 09:05 AM

I agree with you bböp about the non-stop yapping. It's so hard to ignore. As Jerry Seinfeld once said, "People, they're the worst". That's why, when they play the Chicago Theatre, we get secluded Box #8 (or similar) so I'm less bothered by talkers, texters, and buttholes. They're everywhere, even in the 90's at smaller shows. I'm not sure what's happened to the core Wilco fans...sometimes it's easier to stay home?

 

I go back to '96-'99 seeing a smooth Tweedy face screaming during "Misunderstood" and each time wondering if he's okay only to see him let out a smile after the last, "NOTHING AT ALL". I loved those days, but I think if they didn't evolve to where they are now, I wouldn't be following them anymore. It's okay to be nostalgic, but we didn't go to El Presidente after like we did after the day before Thanksgiving shows. 

 

There were a lot of empty seats, including boxes toward the top. Before Robyn Hitchcock came on, I overheard a Chicago Theatre employee telling a group of people in the very last row that there are seats in the 8th row that they can take, they said, "Thank you", and went down stairs. 

 

Also, I loved hearing the Ode to Joy songs in person! 



#5 Madcap

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Posted 17 December 2019 - 09:07 AM

It’s funny how one’s perception of the audience/venue can vary so much by their neighbors. I think the crowds have for the most part been pretty good (you’re going to have talkers and gawkers at any show, no matter the venue size). I counted 11 unique songs from night 1, which was fantastic. Would be nice if they could keep that ratio up!

#6 summerdai

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Posted 17 December 2019 - 09:20 AM

You protest too much about the theater and the crowd, if you are looking to find problems then you will. Where I was (row JJ, left side) 90% of people were really into the show. Was a truly brilliant one, a big step up in my opinion from night 1. And the audience were better too. Superb.

#7 OhTheStatic

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Posted 17 December 2019 - 09:26 AM

I don't know, the R.E.M comment you mention is pretty harmless and I don't think it's so fair to knock them over that.

 

The crowd definitely was kind of trash over on my end, though (Main Floor section 3R, Row MM). A group of women were consistently texting during the show, and one of their husbands decided that throughout the show it was a great time to have a reunion with friends? It was definitely odd seeing people greet one another, hug, and catch up during War on War. The husband also was on Wikipedia throughout the show? Strange.



#8 tinnitus photography

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Posted 17 December 2019 - 09:27 AM

You protest too much about the theater and the crowd, if you are looking to find problems then you will.

 

i wasn't there, but from his post it wasn't too hard to spot the problems. 



#9 bböp

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Posted 17 December 2019 - 09:32 AM

You protest too much about the theater and the crowd, if you are looking to find problems then you will. Where I was (row JJ, left side) 90% of people were really into the show. Was a truly brilliant one, a big step up in my opinion from night 1. And the audience were better too. Superb.

Doth I protest too much? Maybe so, but I’ve been to a lot of shows at that venue over the years and I’ve definitely observed a pattern of audiences that are, at best, pretty clueless and/or apathetic and at worst, downright rude. I’m not saying this crowd was even close to the worst I’ve seen there. But the constant stream of people chattering behind me through the show was kinda brutal.

Like I wrote yesterday, the Chicago Theatre is generally tolerable depending on where you’re sitting and who’s sitting around you. But it’s never gonna be a great venue for Wilco, and I don’t think that’s too harsh a statement.

I don't know, the R.E.M comment you mention is pretty harmless and I don't think it's so fair to knock them over that.

The crowd definitely was kind of trash over on my end, though (Main Floor section 3R, Row MM). A group of women were consistently texting during the show, and one of their husbands decided that throughout the show it was a great time to have a reunion with friends? It was definitely odd seeing people greet one another, hug, and catch up during War on War. The husband also was on Wikipedia throughout the show? Strange.

The R.E.M. comment I included just to help demonstrate the type of music “fan” that the venue attracts, which I think your anecdote about the guy being on Wikipedia throughout the show also helps validate.

#10 TCP

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Posted 17 December 2019 - 09:36 AM

One or two people, maybe it's just bad luck, but bbop seemed to have found a pattern there. And honestly, all it takes is one bad fan to sour a show. The third night of St Paul I had some jabroni woman who kept hitting me in the back and talking loudly. She prevented me from being as absorbed into the show as I was the night before, which, maybe didn't ruin the experience, but definitely made it the weakest of the three nights for me personally. Though, with time, I find my memories of these people fades and my impression of the overall show goes up. 

Also, outside of crew, I think it's safe to say bbop has probably seen more Wilco shows than anyone, so I would trust his judgement on crowds at this point.



#11 summerdai

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Posted 17 December 2019 - 09:42 AM

There will always sadly be a minority who talk, text and shout inanities. What I witnessed last night was an exuberant home town crowd who stood, danced, sang along (mostly) in the right places. I have witnessed way worse crowd behaviour, even at Solid Sound to give just one example. It's a fact of life and you just have to shut it out best you can and get into the performance. For me last night that was not an issue.

#12 bböp

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Posted 17 December 2019 - 09:49 AM

There will always sadly be a minority who talk, text and shout inanities. What I witnessed last night was an exuberant home town crowd who stood, danced, sang along (mostly) in the right places. I have witnessed way worse crowd behaviour, even at Solid Sound to give just one example. It's a fact of life and you just have to shut it out best you can and get into the performance. For me last night that was not an issue.


Sure, I’ve witnessed way worse crowds too. Didn’t mean to suggest otherwise. But to be honest, the audiences both nights have been — to use Jeff’s phrase — “dullsville.” I actually thought the crowd got better during the second half of last night’s show, but it still was just OK. It was typical Chicago Theatre, which maybe is just the typical Wilco crowd nowadays.

I would give credit for standing throughout, but basically unless you’re in the pit there, you have little choice once the folks in front of you get up. If you have any hope of seeing, that is.

#13 Goalinlifewastobeanecho

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Posted 17 December 2019 - 09:49 AM

Great meeting you and sitting next to you yesterday, man! Sorry if I seemed kind of out of it, the three shows on top of not getting much sleep over the past few nights will do that. I promise the next time our paths cross, I'll be more upbeat! I definitely agree with you in a lot of what you've brought up here. Nothing compares to seeing this band in a smaller setting. Those Riv and smaller residency shows (even though we froze waiting outside for doors) were so much better than these last two at the Chicago Theatre. Not that they haven't been great, the band still brings it every night and it's an amazing time, but something's missing. Hopefully they'll see that and the next Winterlude will be in a smaller setting? The constant yapping by people also seems to be at an all time high these past two shows. I've tried giving my stares to people so they'll shut up, but they don't seem to be working. Can't wait to see what nights three and four have in store! 



#14 uncool2pillow

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Posted 17 December 2019 - 09:59 AM

I know we don't post them up here, but go out and look for the videos of Wilco and Robyn together. They're great.



#15 bböp

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Posted 17 December 2019 - 10:02 AM

Great meeting you and sitting next to you yesterday, man! Sorry if I seemed kind of out of it, the three shows on top of not getting much sleep over the past few nights will do that. I promise the next time our paths cross, I'll be more upbeat! I definitely agree with you in a lot of what you've brought up here. Nothing compares to seeing this band in a smaller setting. Those Riv and smaller residency shows (even though we froze waiting outside for doors) were so much better than these last two at the Chicago Theatre. Not that they haven't been great, the band still brings it every night and it's an amazing time, but something's missing. Hopefully they'll see that and the next Winterlude will be in a smaller setting? The constant yapping by people also seems to be at an all time high these past two shows. I've tried giving my stares to people so they'll shut up, but they don't seem to be working. Can't wait to see what nights three and four have in store!

Hey man, same here. No worries on being out of it, just always good to put a face to a handle (as it were). Thanks for summing up what I realize I was getting at in terms of there being something missing. There’s little comparison between the atmosphere of the shows at the Chicago Theatre and at the Palace in St. Paul, which is why I suspect a lot of the regular Wilco travelers opted for the latter this time around.

Not that I’m upset about going to a show 15 minutes from my home or seeing folks like Robyn Hitchcock (and presumably Sharon Van Etten) collaborate with Wilco, but the vibe at the Chicago Theatre just kind of bums me out.

#16 summerdai

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Posted 17 December 2019 - 10:21 AM

Really don't understand the bad feeling about the venue. It is a truly beautiful place in a great location and the sound is stellar. Wilco are a live act with quite a following and have outgrown smaller venues, the alternative could be one night at the United Center rather than 4 shows at a theater. Then certain people would be pining for the days they played Chicago Theater.

#17 Madcap

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Posted 17 December 2019 - 10:23 AM

Agreed.  Chicago Theatre is probably my favorite place to see a show these days.  Good sound, comfortable, pretty to look at.  If they played the Riv or the Vic these days, it would be way too crowded, just like it was in '08, '11, and '14.  



#18 bböp

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Posted 17 December 2019 - 10:39 AM

Really don't understand the bad feeling about the venue. It is a truly beautiful place in a great location and the sound is stellar. Wilco are a live act with quite a following and have outgrown smaller venues, the alternative could be one night at the United Center rather than 4 shows at a theater. Then certain people would be pining for the days they played Chicago Theater.

Guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree. And maybe we’re just looking for different things out of a Wilco show. But I promise you, I wouldn’t ever pine for the days they played the Chicago Theatre. It’s fine, like I’ve said. Tolerable even. But I don’t see a show there ever leaving me with a transcendent feeling...

If they started playing the United Center, I would probably think twice about going and just use that money to travel somewhere to see them in a more fitting venue. And fwiw, I don’t think they will ever become a bonafide arena act because I think Jeff understands at some level that once he/they start losing the connection with the audience the way you do in an arena setting — especially when it comes to Wilco — some of the (poetry and?) magic is lost.

#19 summerdai

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Posted 17 December 2019 - 10:46 AM

Guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree. And maybe we’re just looking for different things out of a Wilco show. But I promise you, I wouldn’t ever pine for the days they played the Chicago Theatre. It’s fine, like I’ve said. Tolerable even. But I don’t see a show there ever leaving me with a transcendent feeling...

Fair enough, have to say I walked out of there with a transcendental feeling last night, after wondering on Sun if that was still possible. It's also harder for it to happen for me when you see many shows close together. That's my personal feeling anyway (was my 5th since summer).

#20 summerdai

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Posted 17 December 2019 - 10:48 AM

And I agree with you about arenas, but I have seen them in big places opening for REM and Neil Young and they still brought it. I think they could be an arena band if they wanted that.




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