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Wilco — 22 February 2017, Chicago, IL (Chicago Theatre) [Night 1 of 4]

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Well, Winterlude 2017 is officially underway and it was a nice welcome back home for Wilco, and a welcome return to touring both in the United States and in the new year. Not to mention the first-ever performance by the band within the elegant confines of the Chicago Theatre, which is located right in the heart of the Loop and features what is probably the city's most iconic theater marquee. Jeff even mentioned at one point tonight that it was just his second time ever in the building; the first came in 2006 when Wilco performed The Thanks I Get on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, joning then-Illinois senator Barack Obama as guests on the show. But at any rate, it does seem at least somewhat weird that it was more than two decades into the career of one of Chicago's flagship rock bands before it finally played a full show in one of the city's premier rooms.


From a setlist standpoint, the show wasn't all that dissimilar from some of the ones on the last leg of the tour in Europe in November with half of Schmilco featured, a sprinkling of Star Wars and rounded out with some "greatest hits." Hopefully we'll get a little more variety as the run goes on, if nothing else at least in some of the Schmilco material that gets played each night. It'd be interesting to see Nope or Common Sense played again, for example. On Night 1, though, it seemed like the more established tunes in the band's catalog generated the most energy both with the band and the audience. Opening with Ashes Of American Flags set a tone for the evening, the same way it had in the band's first post-election show in Utrecht in November. And venerable chestnuts such as Impossible Germany (with Nels really stretching out on his solo) and Jesus, etc. (with Jeff really urging the crowd to sing along) gave the show some of its most memorable moments, at least to these ears.


The first encore provided another jolt with the 1-2 punch of Locator and the electric Spiders, the latter featuring the "singing riff" interlude that seems to be the preferred version at the moment owing to the rapturous reception the song received in Brazil and elsewhere in that part of the world last fall. As Jeff explained, before launching into the "bah-da-da-da-da-da-da..., "In South America, they know how to go to rock concerts. ... We didn't have to tell them what to do; they taught us."


Jeff was in fine form, banter-wise, for much of the night, almost punchy at times. After a few check-ins with the crowd over the course of the main set, including an early "Hello, neighbors," Jeff remarked before Heavy Metal Drummer that this didn't "seem like a Wednesday night audience. I think you're more like a Thursday audience," and asked how many people weren't going into work tomorrow and subsequently suggested that "everyone should just stop doing everything." That led to a mini-rant that, once Jeff really got going, it seemed like everything that had been on his mind just flooded out and couldn't be contained. I have basically no hope of adequately reconstructing said rant here, but basically he suggested that we all stop working and doing things and just eat (something?) and that we'd all find a way to take care of each other and be OK. Then he said that if anyone had voted for Trump and thought Jeff shouldn't say anything, "just remember that you voted for a reality television star, so I can say whatever I want." He finished this particular stream of consciousness with the notion that "we're going to persist and resist."


I'll let others chime in with more details and opinions, but the only other things I can think to add were that the Schmilco "fauxliage" backdrop was in full effect and, combined with the various lighting effects, lent the show a cool visual aesthetic in the theater setting. I've seen it before, but I have to remind myself that this particular production hasn't been used in U.S. much at all since Wilco Schmilco came out last September. After all, the band has only played a handful of domestic shows thus far in support of its current record (limited to the Pacific Northwest and West Coast). And the stripped down instrumentation/gear setup is back as well and sounded pretty good, I thought. All in all, it was a solid performance by the band and a relatively energetic yet mostly respectful crowd for a seated theater show so we'll see what the next few shows bring...


Here was the complete setlist for Winterlude 2017 Night 1, as played (didn't get a look at a printed setlist, so can't say if there were any changes/omissions):


Ashes Of American Flags

If I Ever Was A Child

Cry All Day

I Am Trying To Break Your Heart>

Art Of Almost

Pickled Ginger

Misunderstood (hootenanny arrangement — Jeff on acoustic, Nels on lap steel, Pat on banjitar and John on 12-string acoustic)

Someone To Lose

Pot Kettle Black

Via Chicago

Bull Black Nova (acoustic arrangement — Jeff on acoustic, Nels on resonator)


Impossible Germany

We Aren't The World (Safety Girl)

Box Full Of Letters

Heavy Metal Drummer>

I'm The Man Who Loves You


The Late Greats


Random Name Generator

Jesus, etc.


Spiders (Kidsmoke) (electric arrangement)


California Stars

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Incidentally, tonight's support act was the fab Chicago supergroup The Flat Five (Kelly Hogan, Nora O'Connor, Scott Ligon, Casey McDonough and Alex Hall). They played about 40 minutes to a much smaller audience than they deserve. Was hoping they might make it out to Solid Sound this year, but I'm guessing schedules didn't align.


Anyway, their set was mostly songs off their recent Bloodshot record of Chris Ligon songs called It's A World Of Love And Hope, which I'd encourage everyone to pick up...


In case anyone cares, their setlist as played was:




You're Still Joe

I Could Fall In Love With You

I Found Love [The Free Design]

Blue Kazoo

Mother Beautiful [sly and the Family Stone]

Almond Grove


Sermonette [Cannonball Adderley/Lambert, Hendricks and Ross]

This Is Your Night

It's Been A Delight

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Thanks for the recap, Paul! It's the first time I've seen the "fauxliage" and I love it. Chill-inducing parts of the night for me were "Ashes of American Flags", "Reservations", and "The Late Greats".  Great crowd energy, though it was a little too chill in the balcony boxes for my taste.  The floor looked like the place to be for the enthusiastic fan.  


Excellent to see some Wilco friends there, too. Let's do a few more, shall we?

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Excellent show,loved some of the new arrangements. Felt like an anti Trump rally at one time. Setlist not too exciting, really hope for some curveballs tonight. Thought support act were a little twee and underwhelming.


Seemed to be an unbelievable line for the merchandising stand. Everyone after a poster or 2?

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Wilco is like an old friend that no matter how much time apart, being in their company is so comforting. Incredibly solid show, they hit at least one song from all 10 proper studio albums. I think it is safe to say they will definitely switch up songs and give a nice variety, but we are not heading towards any original Riv residency set list craziness. South American Spiders was the highlight. So much fun and superior in every way to the clapping, start and stop version of the past. The trump banter from Jeff was great but I still felt like I was living in a dictatorship when after the show, the bright basking light of the hotel sign engulfed me on the walk to my car.

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Thought Tweedy was the happiest I can remember. Really seemed to be enjoying the experience as did the rest of the band. Bbop summary is excellent as usual, and the energy between the band was palpable. Thought the crowd was bit flat though. All in all just an another brilliant performance. Locator and spiders the highlight for me.

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We knew it was going to be a good night when the set break music included Zeppelin, The Who and the Allmans! And when they open with Ashes, it's ON!!! One of the tightest and most inspired shows I've seen them play. A lot due to Jeff's fired up mood. His comments included what I thought was a very sincere plea for people to come together. The crowd by us didn't even consider sitting down and we're way into Nels' epic solos. It was a great start to the run!

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Any chance anyone has an extra show poster from this night?  I somehow didn't see that there was a show specific poster and figured I'd wait until the weekend to get the 4 night poster.  With the Duval's being a set I really need night 1.

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