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Wilco — 6 September 2019, Stavanger, Norway (Konserthus Stavanger [Zetlitz])

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With one Ode To Joy show and an early off day behind them, Wilco and crew played the second of four Norwegian shows at the Stavanger Konserthus (which was about as far removed from the venue in Trondheim as that city is from Stavanger — which, if you’re not up on your Fjordland geography, is far). The Konserthus is a gleaming performing arts center located on the Stavanger harbor with a couple of different rooms, the smaller of which (Zetlitz) was where the band performed to a crowd that felt relatively sparse but I couldn’t say for certain.


Not to say that the show was uptight by any means, just that the space was quite nice for a rock show (and just as I was walking in, a “stupid rainbow” even appeared across the harbor). At least the Zetlitz, which I think normally has seats, was converted to an all-standing space for the show, so you had the benefit of a general admission crowd with the excellent acoustics of a room designed for music.


As far as that music, the band added one more live debut of a song from OTJ (Before Us) to the six that it played the other night in Trondheim. What is the new material like, more than one person has asked? It’s kind of hard to describe, partly because I’m still getting a grasp on it myself and partly because it doesn’t lend itself to easy descriptions like “rocker” or “folky” or whatever.


I don’t think the OTJ songs will necessarily make people get out of their seats and pump their fists in the air, but it’s not like super-quiet ballads either. The songs are relatively simple, but the arrangements are surprisingly complex in many cases and probably will reward repeated listens. As I said in my recap from Trondheim, percussion seems to be a big part of OTJ — Glenn does so much beyond straight drumming on the songs I’ve heard so far — and I would add texture as well with both Glenn and Nels adding their own touches to different songs. On An Empty Corner, for example, I think Nels uses an electric whisk-type implement on his guitar and you could really hear it at the Stavanger show.


One thing that was different in Stavanger was the addition of some abstract projections on a white screen behind the band that really added to visual look of the show. Some had a 3-D effect to them, and there was even a cool-looking screen that flashed after the band had gone off stage following its main set with the word “Wilco” painted on glass (it’ll make more sense when you see it). I think that lighting designer Jeremy has been and is continuing to work on these projections, so that by the time the OTJ tour gets back to the good ol’ US of A, they will really be something to behold.


Another element that added to the good feeling in Stavanger was the birthday of drum tech Ashwin, who got a call-out from Jeff during the encore and, after emerging for a rather sheepish wave, a serenade from the audience. Jeff didn’t totally pander to the crowd, though, shooting down requests a couple of times, including once after Ashwin’s serenade when someone yelled out for Passenger Side. “Nope,” said Jeff, shaking his head. “Sorry, sir, but that ship has sailed. We’re ramping up for our fun finale.”


If you want to go with the description of Jeff as resembling a garden gnome that one Norwegian newspaper has already used, then I suppose he didn’t do much to dispel it in Stavanger by both gently rejecting requests as well as keeping his black Warm knit hat on throughout the show (except to jokingly muss his own hair into a gnome-like point on occasion). That look, in concert with his fast-growing beard and buttoned-up denim jacket, certainly could conjure a certain image.


Unfortunately Jeff was not a particularly chatty gnome. When he saluted Nels after Impossible Germany, he told the crowd that Nels “shares some DNA with you,” but then Nels pointed toward his stage right-mate and Jeff was forced to concede, “though probably not as much as Mikael Jorgensen.” Jeff also joked earlier, after introducing White Wooden Cross as being from Ode To Joy, that the song was an “ode to death.” He probably drew the biggest audience response during the encore when he spit out the Norwegian equivalent to "thanks a lot."


Otherwise music was again the focus, and aside from the OTJ songs, Laminated Cat was once again a standout with the band jamming the outro section even more intensely than in Trondheim. Jeff, in particular, really went to town on his whammy bar on that song. And it was nice to hear Via Chicago and Either Way back to back in the middle of the set, especially with the yo-yoing mood contrasts between those two and the ensuing Bull Black Nova. We’ll see which way the mood swings tonight as the tour moves on to Bergen...


Here was the complete setlist for Stavanger, as played (only glanced at a printed setlist, but there didn't appear to be any changes):


Bright Leaves

Before Us

I Am Trying To Break Your Heart

War On War

Handshake Drugs

Whole Love

One and a Half Stars

Someone To Lose


White Wooden Cross

Via Chicago

Either Way

Bull Black Nova

Laminated Cat (aka Not For The Season)


Impossible Germany

Love Is Everywhere (Beware)

Box Full Of Letters

Everyone Hides

Random Name Generator

An Empty Corner

Jesus, etc.

Red-Eyed and Blue>

I Got You (At The End of the Century)


California Stars

The Late Greats

—happy birthday sung to drum tech Ashwin—

Heavy Metal Drummer

I'm The Man Who Loves You

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Also forgot to mention that Jeff thanked Spiral Stairs for opening, both in Trondheim and in Stavanger. Tonight Jeff said he has “been friends with that guy for a long time, and it’s nice to be out on the road with him again.”


Spiral’s post-Pavement, pre-solo band Preston School of Industry supported Wilco for a run of shows way back in 2002 on the Yankee Hotel Foxtrot tour.


Anyway, on this run, Spiral is playing as a stripped-down duo act with an electric guitarist but it has been fun to see him again. And he has even sprinkled in a Pavement song or two (Two States, Painted Soldiers) and a PSOI tune (Caught In The Rain) into his sets this week.

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