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Albert Tatlock

Wilco - 19th November 2016, London, England (O2 Brixton Academy)

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Ah Wilco, it's been a while. In fact I was surprised myself quite how long. Over the past year since tickets went on sale I had pondered on how things might pan out, what with us missing out on a Star Wars tour visit and the hootenanny sessions having been and gone since they last visited London. But, recent shows have demonstrated the groove into which they've settled for the moment (I even did my homework last Saturday watching the stream of the Belgian show from the start of the tour) and I was quite happy anticipating something similar. So, the only speculation revolved around whether in Boudoir Corner JT was persisting with the full Willy Nelson and whether Josh would get his top off for an end of tour cowbell mambo.

 

To get back to the set-up for the current shows. I have been on record a few times expounding on how IMHO turning the dial up to 11 does not directly equate to expressing energy/passion when it comes to making music – so much so that I get to sound like the bongo player from Stan Freberg's version of the Banana Boat song ("Too piercing man, too piercing"). Although the last time Wilco were in London, the 2nd night at the Roundhouse was just about my favourite show, the 1st was slightly marred by an aural assault resulting in a muddy overall effect. Comparing Bull Black Nova from that night to that of the Belgian stream was a revelation. The emotion was there but far better delivered. For a band oft compared to the Beatles, they really have that crisp, airy, but punchy Rubber Soul/Revolver sound going on right now. That's right up my street. And when the volume/noise does come, it hits home all the more and I love seeing the band work harder to achieve it. The variation is so much more interesting than the mandatory (and effortless) feedback applied to the ending of every other song around 10 years ago.

 

So, leaving The Keeper Of The Lists to assume the position and do his sacred duty, I shall proceed. Until he delivers, suffice to say - no real suprises if you've veen following events recently, but since it's been so long I was not being picky (and I did get Reservations which I had been voting for a few times before it's recent reintroduction, so I'll take that).

 

First off, needing to see the end of the rugby (Wales not the chariot drivers) and a small logistical blunder left me some way down the queue when I arrived at about half an hour to doors opening. I waved to Bbop as I trudged past in the light drizzle and thought that would be all I saw of him. However, quite where everyone went I don't know, but I sauntered down to the third row within touching distance of his Eminence, and was very happy to pass the waiting hour with a bit of chat. Always a complete pleasure Bbop. Good on you Sir for all you do for the cause.

 

I say sauntered 'down' as the Brixton Academy has a very pleasing slope up away from the stage affording better sight lines for all and I would think presenting a nice crowd view to the band too. I like it and I feel less guilty about being tall but towards the front there. I did have my knees slightly bent all night - honest. I have been in training. As Bbop said, it is a much bigger venue than most they have been playing on this tour. If not the intimate club that a long time fan might desire, the scale and a perhaps slightly leary Saturday night crowd (can't remember Wilco playing here on a Saturday night before) geed up by footie and a few pints made this have the atmosphere of a proper rock show event, and it was actually all the better for it (given that I had a great spot right in front of JT - close but not so close as to be too weird - the size of the venue was immaterial).

 

A full band (well 3 of them featuring Tweedy's Mr Darin Gray of course) Will Tyler for the first time on the tour I think took to the stage at 8 sharp. His instrumental mood music with its hypnotic repetitive riffs were always going to be a hard sell as an opener in a big venue, but he was well received even if there was some background murmering from the bars throughout. He seems like a very nice guy and will be playing at Bush Hall on Sunday night.

 

Wilco, or rather just JT and Nels as has been customary, kicked thinks off spot on 9pm, and the show closed at about 11:05. They played all my fav Schmilco songs weighted towards the front of the set, and I could actually have done with more from Star Wars.

 

One huge plus from the stripped down set-up are that there is less clutter obscuring Glenn's frenetic masterclass, and the keyboards are no longer just background filler - each individual flourish can be heard. Mikael is a real part of the group not hidden behind a barricade of equipment (who knew he had a crotch?) – though I was a bit dismayed that the blinking owl has gone: surely some perch could have been found amongst the foliage. Oh yes, that backdrop. Wonderful. The band were slightly in front of it, so there wasn't quite that 'Wilco in a glade' effect that I have seen, but I'm glad they took the trouble to bring it. Particularly liked the flourescent paint giving the moonlit Halloween forest effect that I hadn't expected.

 

Having had my rant about volume above, I was surprised that the show was generally much louder than I was expecting. Always hard to know if your own particular spot is representative of course, but this was probably due to the size of the venue and they decided to crank things up a notch. On balance I think they got it right. A bit of a barney on a Saturday night felt right without it getting all distorted. And I will say that the lead vocal sound was perfect. Never heard JT being so clear and expressive in a non-solo setting. Top marks Stan.

 

Some random comments in random order follow.

 

Impossible Germany. You know you're going to get it and in advance it's not something that I anticipate with much enthusiasm for that reason. But each time it comes around you can't help but enjoy it - for me the interplay of the Thin Lizzy section more so than the Nels solo. I've heard him do sweeter/more precise solos, but Nels seemed really fired up tonight and delivered a gritty version that hit hard. Actually my favourite part of IG is that segment when JT steps back and is gently strumming with such a beaming glow of contentment on his face as Nels does his thing. Well might JT be proud of what he's put together.

 

Don't think I've seen JT so expressive with gestures when delivering lyrics or generally being 'into' the performance. John too. Glad they were having a good time up there.

 

ITMWLY closed the main set. As JT kept the opening chord hanging, I am proud to say that I stretched up an arm and made a beckoning upward wave towards Glenn that caught JTs eye. Others followed suite and the crowd were baying as JT moved to convince Glenn to go for it. He gave in and we got an epic moment of him atop his kit.

 

Note to Pat - if you sometimes feel a bit superfluous out on the periphery with your glockenspiel or triangle, I want you to know that I REALLY appreciate those bits of colour that you bring to the sound at those times. Really. I loved your detailed input to the production of The Whole Love. Keep up the good work. Are John and Pat providing more frequent backing vocals too now? I got that impression and I like it.

 

As the band were trooping off for the first time, it crossed my mind that I was dissappointed not to have heard RNG. Luckily it opened the encore if memory serves. Jesus Etc afterwards was a bit of a mood killer for me and has never been one of my favs, but I suppose it's a crowd pleaser. (If JT really wants to feck me over next time he can include Walken and Kingpin too :-) ) As Locator started I began to think the encore was loosing traction, but in fact it's great live snd the crowd were chanting the High, high, high refrain. The crowd were chanting to most songs from about half way in.

 

Spiders finished the first encore, with JT leading the now customary singing of the guitar part chorus. On a scale of 1 to Rio, we were probably 7 bubbling under 8, but it felt good and there had been more singing than I had heard before at a Wilco show. London being what it is, there was a fairly international mix around me, including a couple of Brazilians in fact. While everone else was belting out the song on their normal instruments, Pat got his sex toys out (tambourine and maracas) and strutted his rock God stuff even without a guitar. I spotted Will Tyler headbanging in the wings, which signalled the Cali Stars finale in the second encore.

 

No semi naked Josh. Boo! Hoodoo is a stronger closer than Cali Stars IMHO.

 

Boudoir Corner

Yes, still going. The elastic bands were pulled off and flicked into the crowd on leaving the stage at the end of the main set. A bit unhygenic if you ask me, but maybe I'm getting too sensitive in my old age after being gobbed on by various bands way back when.

 

Banter Corner

A very bare banter cupboard. Apart from a 'It's good to be back in London - it's been too long' safe crowd pleaser of a comment after about 8 songs, there was a 'Take That Trump' after Impossible Germany, and something along the lines of it being their best London show, but only because others had been bad, towards the very end. I always take those sort of lines with a pinch of salt, but they clearly did have a great time out there. Alot of smiles between themselves and what looked like extra ooomph feeding off the audience vibe. I actually for once did not want too much talk. That left more time for songs, and the body language of the band said it all.

 

Oh, one final one: on anouncing prior to Box Full Of Letters that a song from their first album was coming up, there was a loud cheer, to which JT responded: 'Interesting ...' and looked puzzled/bemused.

 

The second night at the Roundhouse had been my favourite, largely due to a rousing arms in the air final Shot in the Arm and then a wonderful encore featuring Nick Lowe. But I think this has pipped it. I had also been hoping for 2 nights, but this felt good, felt special, and felt all the better for standing out alone.

 

As the lights came up Matrix took a photo from the stage. We all put our arms up in salute. I look forward to seeing it.

 

Took forever to get out of the venue, but got my train with literally 5 seconds to spare. The post gig buzz has kept me awake so I could write this, but it's late so might be a bit jumbled and I'm not going to proof read now. Will add if I think of anything tomorrow.

 

Treat them right when they get back home to you, people. Now goodnight everybody, everywhere.

 

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So, leaving The Keeper Of The Lists to assume the position and do his sacred duty, I shall proceed. Until he delivers, suffice to say - no real suprises if you've veen following events recently, but since it's been so long I was not being picky (and I did get Reservations which I had been voting for a few times before it's recent reintroduction, so I'll take that).

 

First off, needing to see the end of the rugby (Wales not the chariot drivers) and a small logistical blunder left me some way down the queue when I arrived at about half an hour to doors opening. I waved to Bbop as I trudged past in the light drizzle and thought that would be all I saw of him. However, quite where everyone went I don't know, but I sauntered down to the third row within touching distance of his Eminence, and was very happy to pass the waiting hour with a bit of chat. Always a complete pleasure Bbop. Good on you Sir for all you do for the cause.

Excellently spewed recap, Herr Tatlock, and please allow me to say it's always a pleasure getting to catch up with you a bit in person! I hope you will make your way to our shores again sooner than later. Until then, I guess we'll always have Paris (where I have somewhat fond memories of teenaged French using me as a pogo stick during Spiders)... :bounce8

 

...and now the Brixton Academy (sorry I mean, O2 Academy Brixton), where before a near-capacity crowd of just under 5,000, Wilco closed out its 2016 touring schedule with a solid, professional performance that probably delighted 95 percent of the the audience. How you felt about the show probably depended on how long it had been since you had seen the band and/or how closely you've been following recent setlists.

 

The vast majority of attendees probably didn't know — or care — that the band had played exactly the same setlist in the same order the previous night in Manchester (with the exception of California Stars added to the second encore in London). But if you had been one of those people who made the effort to attend both of the group's first headlining shows in the country in more than five years, the lack of variety between the two gigs probably was a tiny bit of a letdown.

 

At any rate, I can say there were some positive aspects from tonight's show. The sound quality, for instance, was excellent throughout, with none of the technical issues that plagued the Manchester gig early on. And the venue staff and security were among the friendliest and helpful I can remember. One example was the line-up to enter the show, which featured a priority entry queue for those with O2 cell phones as well as a regular queue. Since those in the priority queue were entitled to bring up to three additional people in with them, a security guard actually came by and rewarded a handful of people at the front of the regular queue who had lined up early by matching them up with priority entry folks who had extra "friend" spots. Could you imagine that ever happening in the U.S.?

 

For me, the downside was that the band felt a tad distant — the sizable 20-foot gap between the front row and where the band's front line was set up on stage might have had something to do with that — and slightly machine-like at times. I just didn't feel like an especially strong connection was made between band and audience, until maybe the end of the night on the cathartic A Shot in the Arm. (Although the inter-band connection was as strong as ever, and when William Tyler came out and joined in on California Stars, you can tell there is a real fondness for him among Los Wilcos. :hug )

 

I'm sure Jeff was sensitive to getting through the songs he wanted to present in the two hours allotted before the 11 p.m. curfew and didn't want to waste too much time chit-chatting, but the performance almost seemed a bit rushed, at least to my admittedly erratic internal clock. Despite any time constraints, though, Glenn was at least coaxed to stand up on his drum stool to kick off I'm The Man Who Loves You, which is always fun.

 

Ultimately, after a long, grueling European tour — and quite a bit of touring over the past few months — it's probably best for the band members to go their separate ways for a while and recharge their batteries before coming back together in 2017. It's always a treat to be able to catch some shows on this side of the pond, but it can be draining as well and tough to be away from home for so long during such a time of upheaval. So here's hoping band and crew alike get some well-deserved rest over the next few weeks and months, and come back rejuvenated in the new year... :thumbup

 

Here was the complete setlist, as played (I didn't get a look at a printed setlist, so can't say if there were any changes — but I'm guessing not):

 

Normal American Kids^

If I Ever Was A Child

Cry All Day

I Am Trying To Break Your Heart>

Art Of Almost

Pickled GInger

Misunderstood (hootenanny arrangement)

Someone To Lose

Pot Kettle Black

Via Chicago

Bull Black Nova (acoustic arrangement)

Reservations

Impossible Germany

We Aren't The World (Safety Girl)

Box Full of Letters

Heavy Metal Drummer>

I'm The Man Who Loves You

Hummingbird

The Late Greats

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

Random Name Generator

Jesus, etc.

Locator

Spiders (Kidsmoke) (electric arrangement)

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

California Stars (with William Tyler on electric guitar)

A Shot in the Arm (hootenanny arrangement)

 

^ — Jeff Tweedy and Nels Cline only

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As the lights came up Matrix took a photo from the stage. We all put our arms up in salute. I look forward to seeing it.

 

I look forward to seeing it as well, if only to see how crowded the place really looked since I didn't have the best position for that. One small correction, though, which is that it was the band's drum tech Ashwin who took the post-show snap (and has been doing so for some time now) and not Matrix. Also, I believe I did not raise my arms in salute but put forth a goofy pose which I cannot currently recall exactly what it was. Another reason we hopefully get to see said snap... :wave

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Loved the show (as usual). Amazing sound. And the new arrangements of some of the songs was great.

 

But..... the newer songs (from the last 2 or 3 albums) just aren't that good. Too much of the set felt like filler material compared to so many songs they could do. 

 

And Jesus Etc a mood killer? Far from it, for me.

 

I'd put either night of Shepherds Bush Empire, and either night from the Roundhouse, and The Roxy, The Forum (maybe my favourite) and ... actually, most other London shows I've enjoyed more.

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Loved the show (as usual). Amazing sound. And the new arrangements of some of the songs was great.

 

But..... the newer songs (from the last 2 or 3 albums) just aren't that good. Too much of the set felt like filler material compared to so many songs they could do.

 

And Jesus Etc a mood killer? Far from it, for me.

 

I'd put either night of Shepherds Bush Empire, and either night from the Roundhouse, and The Roxy, The Forum (maybe my favourite) and ... actually, most other London shows I've enjoyed more.

Ashamed to say I didn't go last night. Kind of wish I had now, but share your thoughts on recent material. Been to all the other London shows. 'Wilco'd out' maybe. Dunno, the relative lo-fi feel of recent stuff not so suited to Wilco's natural home maybe. Some of the stuff growing on me but it's not Tweedy's strongest material imo.

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Ashamed to say I didn't go last night. Kind of wish I had now, but share your thoughts on recent material. Been to all the other London shows. 'Wilco'd out' maybe. Dunno, the relative lo-fi feel of recent stuff not so suited to Wilco's natural home maybe. Some of the stuff growing on me but it's not Tweedy's strongest material imo.

I enjoyed the Tweedy show at the Palladium more than this. I like his chat.

 

I'm very glad I went though. An average Wilco show is better than most

 

oh, and me and my wife both got punched, in the face by a lunatic girlfriend of a guy who was drunk and kept pushing into us. I asked him to stop, and she layed into the both of us. It didn't hurt or anything it was just a random end to the show..!?!?

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http://www.standard.co.uk/goingout/music/wilco-tour-review-not-a-band-for-the-narrow-of-mind-or-faint-of-heart-a3400761.html

 

One other thought from Saturday that I remembered - it used to be the case that the first couple of songs suffered the distraction of a posse of photographers jumping arounf between the stage and the barrier. For better or worse those days seem long gone. There was a single photographer for a short period. Either Wilco are no longer 'cool' or the proliferation of personal camera phones now has downvalued their services I suppose.

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Needless to say, it was a great night. Great write ups too, thanks for sharing.

 

Does anyone know if this show was taped? Would love to find a recording...

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I read somewhere that some Brixton guys with guns kicked in the taper's front door and took the recording.

 

At first I thought you were serious, then I started to hum a tune and chuckled. 

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