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Wilco — 2 October 2017, San Antonio, TX (Tobin Center for the Performing Arts)

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If I'm being completely honest, the prospects for tonight's show being a rousing one weren't that great. You could hardly have blamed Wilco if it simply went through the motions on a Monday night in the middle of a year-ending tour in a tertiary market in a fancy new, reserved-seat venue. And, of course, on an absolute crusher of a news day that began with the horrible news from Las Vegas and concluded with the stunning death of Tom Petty.


Wilco had played in San Antonio twice before, but it had been more than 10 years since the last time (and more than 20 since an opening set for Sheryl Crow) so it wasn't clear what to expect in terms of turnout. The relatively new Tobin Center, which transformed the city's old Municipal Auditorium into a state-of-the-art live performance venue that holds just shy of 1,800 in its seated configuration, is a pretty dramatic-looking room with its three wide horseshoe-shaped balconies. It's perhaps more suitable for the ballet or opera than a rock concert, but did apparently nearly sell out for Wilco's show. And although there were plenty of empty seats during Margaret Glaspy's opening set and even right up until Wilco came on, the room eventually filled up nicely.


After the sitting-standing dichotomy (fiasco?) the previous evening in Austin, the stage was set for a repeat when most of the audience remained seated through the first two songs. But once the band kicked into Art Of Almost, it was almost as if a collective light bulb clicked on and just about everyone rose to their feet and remained standing the rest of the night. Crowd dynamics are always somewhat mysterious, at least to me, but thankfully on this night the sit-stand debate was quickly rendered moot.


The somber news of the day nevertheless accounted for a relatively subdued start, and after passing up a couple of opportunities to say something —a couple of times early on someone in the crowd would yell words of thanks or support and Jeff would almost verbally respond but then simply doff his hat or give a small wave — it occurred to me that perhaps Jeff might not say anything at all. It took almost half the show for him to finally address the crowd, until just before California Stars, but then the words flowed at least for a little while.


"How are you doing, San Antonio?" Jeff said. "Sorry I'm not talking that much. What's there to say on a day like today, except let's take care of each other. ... This is too much bad news for one day. For one lifetime." When a few people yelled out about Petty, Jeff almost had to directly address the singer's passing — which at the time had actually not been fully confirmed yet: "Let's send out positive, healing thoughts. Of course what a loss (it would be), but this guy says he never backs down so let's hope for a recovery."


More importantly, Jeff continued on and reminded us of the importance of doing precisely what we were all doing at a time like this. "We're here because this is important," he said. "No one will ever take away this. As a person who stands on stage (for a living), there's nothing in the world that would frighten me away from doing this. This is maybe the only thing I believe in in the world is this...kind of community."


With those heartfelt words, Jeff returned to the business at hand — namely, entertaining. He was fortunate in that regard to have a couple of people close to the stage to serve as foils for the remainder of the show. There was a guy apparently resting his eyes a bit who Jeff called out a couple of times. "Wake up the guy sleeping," Jeff said, pointing to his right. "We're gonna rock from from here out, but I'm glad you got a nap in." After the band played a rousing Box Full Of Letters, Jeff joked, "He's woke! I can see all of you. I know all your secrets." Later on, after a few more rock songs, the sleeping guy had apparently totally snapped out of his slumber — perhaps a bit too much, judging by his behavior. "Get that guy back to sleep," Jeff said. "He's so wide awake now. So distracting."


Then there was the white-haired man standing virtually front and center wearing a shirt with an odd design on it. "What's up with that shirt — are those suspenders or just a design? It's been bugging me all night," Jeff said with a smile. "It's a stupid shirt. Don't wear that next time." When the band came out for the first encore, the man had covered up said shirt by putting on a Wilco T-shirt, causing Jeff to point that out and say to the audience, "I hate all your shirts." Eventually as the band walked off again, Jeff came over to the edge of the stage and gave the man a quick hug. It was a sweet moment.


One final bit of crowd interaction came before Jesus, etc., when Jeff said he liked San Antonio a lot and tried to remember the last time Wilco had played in town and how his memory was that the venue (Sunset Station) had been a weird one. "We played inside an oil drum or something like that," Jeff said. "I remember we all thought it sounded real bad." When a teenage boy standing in the front row tried to reassure Jeff by saying that it was the acoustics of the venue as opposed to the band itself, Jeff couldn't help but be touched. "What a sweet boy," he said. It led to a little more back-and-forth between Jeff and the boy and his parents who were standing with him. Another nice moment.


It was, all in all, a surprisingly fun Monday night show that many of us desperately needed on a day when it seemed like all the news was bad. I think it's fair to say that the music itself took a back seat to, as Jeff suggested, the mere act of coming together and being together with people celebrating life and art and beauty. That simple act seems more important than ever in these crazy times in which we live.


Here was the complete setlist as played (didn't see a printed list, so can't say if there were any changes or omissions):


Cry All Day

I Am Trying To Break Your Heart>

Art Of Almost

Pickled Ginger

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

Someone To Lose

At Least That's What You Said

If I Ever Was A Child

War On War

Via Chicago

Bull Black Nova (acoustic/electric hybrid arrangement)


Impossible Germany

Whole Love

California Stars

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)



Outtasite (Outta Mind)

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How was Margaret Glaspy's set? I love her album but I've never seen her live. Hope to see her at SS2019 :D

If you liked her album, you probably would have liked her set. She played with a a bassist and drummer and I was glad to actually be able to hear her lyrics clearly. The only other times I've seen her perform have either been before I was familiar with her songs or in clubs where the sound maybe wasn't so great.


Anyway, she does have a very unique voice that I know not everyone responded to (including, shall I say, a certain member of this forum who could be described as a young person who likes cherry bombs — sorry, inside joke). But I like her and think she has potential. She said she's about to take some time off from touring to work on her next record. She also said some kind words about Tom Petty and being a huge Wilco fan.

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