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Wilco — 1/25/16, Pittsburgh, PA (Benedum Center)


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It's always a mixed blessing to attend the first show of a year (or first after a decent-length break) with a band like Wilco. On the one hand, you have the excitement that goes along with the start of a series of shows and the first crack at seeing what, if anything, will be different in terms of production, song selection, etc. On the other, you know that a working band like this will only continue getting better the more time they have to play together and rehearse and get into the proverbial groove.

 

Such was the case for tonight's 2016 opener. It probably didn't help in terms of crowd energy that the kickoff gig was inside a nice theater with reserved seating, on a Monday night in the middle of winter no less. Nevertheless, the band soldiered through and even threw in a couple of small surprises in terms of setlist.

 

The general format of the shows hasn't changed much since the release of Star Wars, so we got the full record to start, then a sort of greatest hits and then a hootenanny-style acoustic (second) encore. While this might seem old hat to those of us who follow each show closely, you have to remember that for most of the audience, this was probably the first chance to see it.That said, it did seem to sort of take a while for this Pittsburgh crowd to get into the show. Maybe that's because they were simply taking in the entirety of Star Wars or there was just a Monday night sort of dynamic.

 

At any rate, from what I could see (which, granted, wasn't a very complete picture of the entire room), people pretty much stayed in their seats until the encores save for the occasional standing ovation or pockets of dancing for one song. It seemed to take the electric version of Spiders to jolt some people into moving, though of course Jeff flubbed the first verse badly — twice.

 

From Banter Corner, not a great deal. Jeff remarked prior to introducing New Madrid that he thought it had been some time since the band had played an indoor show in Pittsburgh — nearly six years, if I'm not mistaken (I'm pretty sure the 2010 "Evening With..." tour concluded here). "I like (being inside)," Jeff said. "I really like Pittsburgh a lot. It reminds me of where I grew up; it's like St. Louis but with hills." Earlier in the show he spotted someone standing off to the side on crutches and said it was the first place he'd seen where they make people with crutches stand the whole time and then made a joke about how it was a Wilco policy that a show wasn't really rocking until there was a crutch in the air. Naturally, the person obliged.

 

On a serious note, what I personally noticed was that being inside really helped Star Wars shine. I'm pretty sure it has only been performed indoors a handful of times so far and I think this might have been the best-sounding performance yet, at least that I've heard. Luckily I was seated right in front of a fill monitor, so that probably helped. But I felt like I could really hear Jeff sing the complex lyrics and hear the mix as the band probably intended. When you are in an outdoor amphitheater, different factors like weather and open air always come into play.

 

I've probably prattled on enough for now, but hopefully some other folks will chime in. Basically, to me, this was a fairly typical tour-opening show — not a bad thing, by any means — and I expect the band and crew to keep getting better as the weeks go on.

 

Here was the complete setlist, as played (didn't get a look at a printed list tonight so can't say if there were any changes):

 

More...

Random Name Generator

The Joke Explained

You Satellite

Taste The Ceiling

Pickled Ginger

Where Do I Begin

Cold Slope>

King Of You

Magnetized

Handshake Drugs

Camera

Art Of Almost

Via Chicago

Box Full Of Letters

Hummingbird

Forget The Flowers

New Madrid

Heavy Metal Drummer>

I'm The Man Who Loves You

Dawned On Me

Jesus, etc.

Impossible Germany

The Late Greats

-----------------------------

Spiders (Kidsmoke) (electric arrangement)

-----------------------------

Misunderstood*

War On War*

It's Just That Simple*

Casino Queen*

California Stars*

A Shot in the Arm*

 

* — performed hootenanny style with Jeff and John on acoustic guitars, Nels on dobro, Glenn on percussion, Mikael on melodica/acoustic guitar and Pat on banjitar/glockenspiel

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Thanks for the review. 

 

I think we'll get a better read for the tour after Boston. Those are the first two back-to-back same venue shows they will play since doing Star Wars in its entirety. 

 

I'm hoping they don't play it completely both nights as I'm going to both Atlanta shows (and I already saw it three times in three nights this past summer)

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Thanks for the review.

 

I think we'll get a better read for the tour after Boston. Those are the first two back-to-back same venue shows they will play since doing Star Wars in its entirety.

 

I'm hoping they don't play it completely both nights as I'm going to both Atlanta shows (and I already saw it three times in three nights this past summer)

Actually, they played consecutive nights at Stubb's in Austin to close out 2015's touring calendar. And I'm afraid they played SW both nights there. You can't really blame them since that's what they're promoting and the vast majority of people at any given show haven't already seen multiple gigs like we have...B)

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Actually, they played consecutive nights at Stubb's in Austin to close out 2015's touring calendar. And I'm afraid they played SW both nights there. You can't really blame them since that's what they're promoting and the vast majority of people at any given show haven't already seen multiple gigs like we have... B)

 

Thanks bbop - as always, I really enjoy reading your reviews and thoughts on the shows.  I will be at the Flynn Theatre tonight (hope you'll finally make a Burlington show) and will head over to Portland tomorrow as well.  That will be it for me this winter...  Having seen Star Wars indoors back at the Metropolis in September - I couldn't agree more that it is WAY better indoors.

 

I am hoping Burlington brings some real energy to the show tonight.  Like most theatre's - the Flynn can suffer from the stand up/sit down issue.  I have found that if people get up early - and stay standing through the first song - everyone gets up.  The room sounds amazing...

 

If anyone needs suggestions on where to drink, eat or hang while in our little fair city - lemme know.

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I have little to add to Paul's thorough coverage, other than some random observations.

 

First, Benedum Theatre is a beautiful venue but definitely not my favorite kind of room for a Wilco show. The all seated show meant that you were confined to furiously dancing in your chair or risking aggressive remarks from your neighbors if you dared get on your feet for part of a rocking song. I envied the group over to the left who decided to throw caution to the wind and boogie all night. I'm glad the next few shows I'm seeing are all GA standing.

 

Jeff looked particularly energized and great, I thought. He seemed to having a good time up there. He was wearing the same striped shirt that he seems to have fallen in love with a few months ago--it's made an appearance in pretty much every picture I've seen of him since he got it.

 

William Tyler, the opener, was having some sound equipment issues, which shortened his set. But he's a mesmerizing guitarist with an easy charm. Don't miss his set if you're going to one of the shows he's opening for.

 

Overall it was an excellent show as always but I'm personally going to avoid the too-fancy venues like the plague! There's just nothing the band can do to mobilize a bunch of youngsters who want to sit back in their comfy seats and be entertained.

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Thanks bbop - as always, I really enjoy reading your reviews and thoughts on the shows. I will be at the Flynn Theatre tonight (hope you'll finally make a Burlington show) and will head over to Portland tomorrow as well. That will be it for me this winter... Having seen Star Wars indoors back at the Metropolis in September - I couldn't agree more that it is WAY better indoors.

 

I am hoping Burlington brings some real energy to the show tonight. Like most theatre's - the Flynn can suffer from the stand up/sit down issue. I have found that if people get up early - and stay standing through the first song - everyone gets up. The room sounds amazing...

 

If anyone needs suggestions on where to drink, eat or hang while in our little fair city - lemme know.

Up before sunrise at the Hilton to make the most of my one full day in Burlington. And I will be standing from the first note!!!
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Actually, they played consecutive nights at Stubb's in Austin to close out 2015's touring calendar. And I'm afraid they played SW both nights there. You can't really blame them since that's what they're promoting and the vast majority of people at any given show haven't already seen multiple gigs like we have... B)

 

That's right, sorry, guess I skimmed through the setlists a little too quick...

 

And from what I'm seeing, a lot of people in Atlanta aren't going to both shows. Second night is sold out but there isn't much demand on the secondary market for the first night.

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I have little to add to Paul's thorough coverage, other than some random observations.

 

First, Benedum Theatre is a beautiful venue but definitely not my favorite kind of room for a Wilco show. The all seated show meant that you were confined to furiously dancing in your chair or risking aggressive remarks from your neighbors if you dared get on your feet for part of a rocking song. I envied the group over to the left who decided to throw caution to the wind and boogie all night. I'm glad the next few shows I'm seeing are all GA standing.

 

Jeff looked particularly energized and great, I thought. He seemed to having a good time up there. He was wearing the same striped shirt that he seems to have fallen in love with a few months ago--it's made an appearance in pretty much every picture I've seen of him since he got it.

 

William Tyler, the opener, was having some sound equipment issues, which shortened his set. But he's a mesmerizing guitarist with an easy charm. Don't miss his set if you're going to one of the shows he's opening for.

 

Overall it was an excellent show as always but I'm personally going to avoid the too-fancy venues like the plague! There's just nothing the band can do to mobilize a bunch of youngsters who want to sit back in their comfy seats and be entertained.

I don't know, the thing about the too fancy venues is that the sound is usually magnificent.  I'm always chasing the venues with excellent sound.  So if the choice is excellent sound and sitting and bopping in my seat or standing/dancing in a less the excellent sounding room, I'll take the excellent sound.  But I get why folks don't want to sit.  I'm going to have to decide at the state Theater GA show on Wednesday whether I'm going to stand all night up front or go for a seat.  Standing for an hour pre-show, then through the opener, then the break, then through all of Wilco sounds like a lot of standing on my creaky knee and foot.

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I'm really looking forward to Star Wars live in Burlington!  I didn't get to Mass MOCA last year, so this will be my first.  And my (I think) 16th or 17th Wilco show.  Hard to remember... especially the '93 HORDE tour. Or was it '94?

 

I wouldn't mind less acoustic, more rock, though. Especially to wrap the show.

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I'm really looking forward to Star Wars live in Burlington!  I didn't get to Mass MOCA last year, so this will be my first.  And my (I think) 16th or 17th Wilco show.  Hard to remember... especially the '93 HORDE tour. Or was it '94?

 

I wouldn't mind less acoustic, more rock, though. Especially to wrap the show.

They didn't do Star Wars at Solid Sound last year.  Which made it such a surprise when it dropped on 7/17, having just spent 3 days with Wilco and not having heard a note or a whisper of a new album.

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Here's the review from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  Who the heck is Ken Stirrat? :)

 

Other than that, nice review.

 

"This was the first time in five years that we’ve seen this “Ghost is Born” lineup (and never in a place as nice as the Benedum) and while it was solid when it assembled in 2004, now it’s a stunning, fine-tuned engine that still accommodates for the scruffiness and vulnerability of its frontman. Wilco, never big on visuals, added a dazzling backdrop of beaded lights that moved and pulsed to the music."

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I am with those who prefer the GA venues. None of this stand up/sit down business. Just stand up and rock! The vibe should be very different in Portland tomorrow night with the GA set up.

I posted on State Theatre page today & asked if they were adding chairs to the floor. They said NO CHAIRS. Made me so happy. I have been to GA shows at the State & they added seats. 

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Thanks for the info.  I thought it would be open floor back to the soundboard, and then chairs behind.  I guess not. 

Sorry for the confusion! There are stationary seats behind the "pit" on the floor. Sometimes they add these strange rows of chairs in front of the soundboard too but not tomorrow. 

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DO you know if anyone taped the show? I was there last night, and although i have been a fan for 11 years now, this was actually the first time seeing Wilco live (saw Tweedy at the Arts Fest a couple years back). I brought one of my best friends who goes to various shows with me. Told him i got 2 tickets, check out wilco you'll love em. He did a crash course of albums got really into them and said last nights show was one of the best hes ever seen. I have to agree. Its one thing to listen to bootlegs and albums over the years and then actually be at the show. Nels Cline blew me away in person. I figured they would do star wars but i was happy they played like another 1 & 1/2 hours. Venue was perfect for the 2nd encore acoustics. I love Casino Queen acoustic. I agree with earlier reviews, was kinda bummed it was a sit down show, luckily we were at the top the people behind us left and we got down during the 2nd half of the show. But i highly recommend anyone to check out a show at the Benedum. Amazing venue. Let me know if anyone taped (audio or video) of the show. Im dying to get my hands on a copy.

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