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Wilco — 18 January 2020, Riviera Maya, Mexico (Hard Rock Hotel) [Sky Blue Sky Festival; Day 1 of 4]


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#1 bböp

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Posted 18 January 2020 - 11:57 PM

Well, that was something. Wilco certainly made its first show of the decade (and first on Mexican soil) one for the books by basically throwing out much of the Ode To Joy tour playbook in favor of some relatively deep cuts and old-school tunes geared toward a festival crowd at a beachfront resort. For whatever reason, the band chose to play a few songs for the first time since BTH (Before The Hiatus) and several others that have been very sporadically played over the past four or five years.

Some were pretty natural fits for this type of setting (Secret of the Sea, I Must Be High), while others were a bit more head scratching (I'll Fight, The Joke Explained). But the end result was a set that definitely was one for the more serious fan. When's the last time a Wilco show without I Am Trying To Break Your Heart, Impossible Germany, Jesus, etc. or California Stars happened? I don't think I could tell you with any certainty.

The irony, of course, was that it didn't seem like there were a ton of "pro fans" in attendance, as one friend of mine observed. I know that a lot of the folks I've come to know who travel fairly regularly for Wilco shows weren't there, and just from an observational standpoint, it seemed like not only was it not overly crowded but there weren't nearly as many "serious" fans as at an event like Solid Sound. I understand that it's a big commitment — some combination of finances, vacation time, family duties, the aesthetic of the event and/or its location likely factored into why some folks didn't make it — but perhaps the band (erroneously, as it turned out) thought that only its biggest or most committed fans would go to the lengths necessary to make the trip and that didn't seem to be the case.

Those who did, though, were rewarded with a pretty surprising and fun set — the first of three Wilco will play over the next four days at the Hard Rock Hotel. Before de facto support act Courtney Barnett played an excellent 75-minute solo electric set, for which I'll try and post the setlist below, the six members of Wilco came on stage and welcomed the crowd with a toast. If you needed any indication of Jeff's vacation vibe, consider that he sported an unbuttoned Hawaiian shirt (and no headwear) that he kept on for the remainder of the evening.

With no video screen behind the band for the OTJ art projections and a pretty basic lighting design, it would have been easy for Wilco to not stretch too far out of its comfort zone. But almost immediately, after opening as expected with Bright Leaves, the band flipped the script with Either Way and then brought Barnett back out for a reprise of their collaboration on Handshake Drugs that first took place at the last Solid Sound.

Of course Jeff poked fun at the notion of a band like Wilco hosting an event like Sky Blue Sky, joking after Bright Leaves that "I was thinking about the beach when I wrote those lyrics." A little later, he quipped that the band members were "all wearing our swimsuits. In case you ever wondered what Nels Cline swims in..." (In reality, the rest of the band aside from Jeff pretty much wore the type of clothes they always wear.) And after confirming the festival's theme of the night, which was wearing a favorite Wilco T-shirt, Jeff deadpanned, "What a marketing ploy." Then he called out someone in his sight line: "So your favorite Wilco T-shirt is a My Morning Jacket shirt? I respect that."

Other visits to Banter Corner came before two of the most surprising songs of the set, Secret of the Sea (which the band hadn't played since Sept. 2015) and Hotel Arizona (which the band had only played twice since 2015), when Jeff first made a joke about Nels' white double-neck guitar that almost always signals Dawned On Me but in this case was used on SOTS. Jeff said something to the effect that Woody Guthrie used a similar model, which of course is hilarious to picture. Jeff also subsequently pointed out that he thought this was the closest to the sea the band had ever played SOTS and then introduced Hotel Arizona by saying he thought it might be the closest to a hotel they had played this one.

That wasn't the end of the relative rarities for this set, though. Following Passenger Side, which Jeff remarked was "for everyone who couldn't pace themselves," the full band performed the delightful Summerteeth deep cut Nothing'severgonnastandinmyway(again) and Being There gem Someday Soon for just the second and fifth times since 2015, respectively (not counting the former's appearance as part of Solid Sound's karaoke set last summer).

In all, Wilco played 25 songs in a set that ran just shy of two hours capped by a main set-closing I'm The Man Who Loves You which Jeff dedicated as always to his wife Susie, who was in attendance — and must have been watching from one of the prime suites at stage left overlooking the stage, judging by the direction Jeff looked while making the dedication — and featured Glenn quickly executing his "rock star" move. Then the band returned with a single-song encore of Spiders (Kidsmoke), which had just been revived after a long break for the final night of last month's four-show Winterlude residency in Chicago.

If you had chosen to attend Winterlude, or the three-show run in St. Paul in November, you might have been slightly chagrined to see the setlist for this first SBS show because those other recent multi-night stands tended to feature more similar sets from night to night. I would probably feel the same. We'll see what lies in store for the rest of SBS, but I can't imagine at least a few more rarities won't be forthcoming (to be swapped out with the ones performed tonight). To be sure, for the first show of the year and a festival gig to boot, you couldn't ask for too much more out of Night 1.

Here was the complete setlist, as played, for the first of three Wilco sets at the inaugural Sky Blue Sky festival (there were no changes from the printed setlist):

Bright Leaves
Either Way
Handshake Drugs (w/Courtney Barnett on electric guitar and vocals)
Side With The Seeds
One and a Half Stars
I Must Be High
The Joke Explained
I’ll Fight
Too Far Apart
Someone To Lose
Secret of the Sea
Hotel Arizona
Ashes Of American Flags
Hummingbird
Passenger Side
Nothing’severgonnastandinmyway(again)
Someday Soon
I’m Always In Love
Hold Me Anyway
Red-Eyed and Blue>
I Got You (At The End of the Century)
Hate It Here
Heavy Metal Drummer
I’m The Man Who Loves You
----------------------------------
Spiders (Kidsmoke) (electric arrangement)

#2 dagwave

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Posted 19 January 2020 - 12:06 AM

JEEPERS. 



#3 worldrecordplayer

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Posted 19 January 2020 - 12:36 AM

Epic show for me and my crew. Outstanding. That set list and the band delivered powerful versions of each. And a lot of rock n roll. 
 



#4 bböp

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Posted 19 January 2020 - 03:51 AM

For anyone who cares, here was Courtney Barnett's setlist for her solo SBS performance preceding Wilco's set:

 

Avant Gardener

Need A Little Time

Nameless, Faceless

Dead Fox

Walkin' On Eggshells

Elevator Operator

Not Only I [Seeker Lover Keeper]

Sunday Roast

Everybody Here Hates You

Let It Go

Depreston

new song-Every Day I Wake Untitled (Play It On Repeat)

Being Around [The Lemonheads]

Dawned On Me [Wilco] ("country version")

History Eraser



#5 Albert Tatlock

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Posted 19 January 2020 - 04:08 AM

Grassy arse.



#6 theashtraysays

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Posted 19 January 2020 - 07:18 AM

Color me a tiny bit chagrined, as I'm a non-attendee for this one.  I agree that it's a little surprising to see the deeper "pro fan" friendly cuts. 

I can see why the Ode to Joy songs don't really fit in with the whole beach vibe, and why the band might want a little break from the rather heavy set they're touring lately.  But I would have expected a little more "greatest hits" theme - certainly an IG and Jesus etc crowd pleaser in there.  And maybe a little more poppy fluff (Candyfloss, The Song...).  But then again there's two more nights for that. 

And any set without a Nova, or the prize-winning NovaCat, is only going to warrant a very faint moment of chagrin here.  Definitely a cool set tho. 



#7 worldrecordplayer

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Posted 19 January 2020 - 08:49 AM

Color me a tiny bit chagrined, as I'm a non-attendee for this one.  I agree that it's a little surprising to see the deeper "pro fan" friendly cuts. 

I can see why the Ode to Joy songs don't really fit in with the whole beach vibe, and why the band might want a little break from the rather heavy set they're touring lately.  But I would have expected a little more "greatest hits" theme - certainly an IG and Jesus etc crowd pleaser in there.  And maybe a little more poppy fluff (Candyfloss, The Song...).  But then again there's two more nights for that. 

And any set without a Nova, or the prize-winning NovaCat, is only going to warrant a very faint moment of chagrin here.  Definitely a cool set tho. 

That was one show of three. I’ve got patience



#8 Madcap

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Posted 19 January 2020 - 09:00 AM

I came for the deep cuts and the deep cuts were much appreciated. I’ve never been to one of these before and was kind of surprised at how relatively small the crowd was, but I suppose there are limited rooms and being able to easily and comfortably get closer to the stage is a selling point.

Thought Courtney Barnett was great but still really wish she had her band with her. I will say, it is pretty neat to see the musicians out and about. Sharon Van Etten and her family is staying down the hall from us and John and Glenn and families are in our building too. I’ve seen Mikael and Courtney out and about a bit too.

Did anyone go to Mikael’s DJ set last night?

#9 worldrecordplayer

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Posted 19 January 2020 - 10:07 AM

I came for the deep cuts and the deep cuts were much appreciated. I’ve never been to one of these before and was kind of surprised at how relatively small the crowd was, but I suppose there are limited rooms and being able to easily and comfortably get closer to the stage is a selling point.

Thought Courtney Barnett was great but still really wish she had her band with her. I will say, it is pretty neat to see the musicians out and about. Sharon Van Etten and her family is staying down the hall from us and John and Glenn and families are in our building too. I’ve seen Mikael and Courtney out and about a bit too.

Did anyone go to Mikael’s DJ set last night?

Yes, we were at Mikael’s set. I didn’t know what to expect and was thrilled to hear all funk and soul grooves. It was such a nice add to an already amazing night



#10 TCP

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Posted 19 January 2020 - 11:24 AM

Aw man, talk about having some FOMO, that setlist is great! The crowd looked pretty small from what photos I could find on social media. And of course I love CB and that 75 minute set is longer than what we got at Solid Sound, IIRC.

Interesting point of the minimal Wilco regulars. It's cool to see a few VCers in attendance but I can count on one hand the number of fans I personally know there, which was not the case for the Saint Paul shows or the Winterlude shows.

Unfortunately the exchange rate was just not favourable for such an investment for this Canuck. I did try to talk Mrs. TCP into it but she, very wisely, pointed out that this would be our entire concert budget for the year and then some (she is fortunately much smarter and less impulsive than me). That's a hard commitment to make to for the third week of January. I have to remind myself I can see way more concerts this year, including Wilco shows (already have three alone in March) by traveling within the US/CAN. If I went to this in January and then had to wait the whole year with only going to what few local shows I get, I would have been pretty annoyed with myself by summer. I also need to remember that I've been to Mexico and didn't do well with the heat! 

Anyways, I'm really excited for the people there, that sounds like a great experience. Maybe if these sorts of setlists go over positively enough they'll bring out the Hotel Arizonas and Secret of the Seas later in the year. 



#11 lost highway

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Posted 19 January 2020 - 12:03 PM

Aw man, talk about having some FOMO,

 

Yeah, me too. My buddy is down there now. I have a feeling the next two setlists will also have some treasures.



#12 scottyb

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Posted 19 January 2020 - 03:22 PM

I’d imagine no repeats, which will be pretty damn cool.

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#13 jamaicaplain

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Posted 19 January 2020 - 04:42 PM

Thanks for the great write-up as always.   

 

Sad to be missing this - especially with that kind of set list, Courtney Barnett, and YLT coming up. 



#14 worldrecordplayer

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Posted 19 January 2020 - 05:39 PM

BTW for you CB fans, the new tune was absolutely fantastic! I great guitar riff tune. You'll be happy to hear it.



#15 eckythump

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Posted 19 January 2020 - 06:00 PM

The official title of the new song is 'Untitled (Play It On Repeat)' - it's been released on her recent MTV Unplugged release under that title.

 

I thought she was great, but a full band show would have been awesome.

 

For anyone who cares, here was Courtney Barnett's setlist for her solo SBS performance preceding Wilco's set:

 

Avant Gardener

Need A Little Time

Nameless, Faceless

Dead Fox

Walkin' On Eggshells

Elevator Operator

Not Only I [Seeker Lover Keeper]

Sunday Roast

Everybody Here Hates You

Let It Go

Depreston

new song-Every Day I Wake

Being Around [The Lemonheads]

Dawned On Me [Wilco] ("country version")

History Eraser



#16 bböp

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Posted 20 January 2020 - 12:32 AM

The official title of the new song is 'Untitled (Play It On Repeat)' - it's been released on her recent MTV Unplugged release under that title.

 

I thought she was great, but a full band show would have been awesome.

 

Thanks for the clarification.






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