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Wilco — 24 September 2019, Antwerp, Belgium (De Roma)

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Apologies to my limited readership for leaving things hanging for a bit with regard to my initial comments about the Antwerp show. I’d like to make the excuse that I was so flabbergasted by what occurred that it took me this long to get my mind around it, but that would be disingenuous. So I’ll just say that the travel caught up to me a little bit…


So where were we, rubber chickens and random hecklers? Well, it all started with a stray squeak about midway through the show. Things had been going more or less according to form up to then, but then the squeak could be clearly heard just before Wilco started to play Love Is Everywhere (Beware). Afterward, Jeff asked innocently, “Was there a duck earlier?” Someone clarified that it had been a rubber chicken and apparently showed it to Jeff.


I guess the bait was too tempting not to take, so after a moment’s consideration, Jeff finally said, “OK, give it to me. I’ll give it back after class.” And then partially off mike, Jeff added, “Who brings a rubber chicken to a rock show?” But indeed, there it was on stage. The band went into the next song, Impossible Germany, and afterward when the audience was giving Nels his usual post-solo applause, Jeff handed him the chicken, which Nels of course proceeded to briefly press against his guitar and use as a noisemaking implement. The whole thing cracked up both Mikael and Glenn. I don’t know if anyone got a decent photo, but it would have been a pretty amusing one. Well played, chicken man. (The chicken eventually found a temporary resting place atop one of Mikael’s keyboards, but as the band was leaving the stage for the final time, Nels launched it back into the crowd.)


Perhaps a little less amusing was the intermittent male voice that could be heard from either somewhere in the middle of the crowd or the balcony at points throughout the show. (I assume it was the same guy throughout, but obviously can’t verify. I think as the show went on and the comments became dumber and more aggressive, it probably was the same guy. Anyway.)


The voice first surfaced a few songs into the show during Jeff’s first audience check-in: “That was a good one,” the voice said. Jeff paused, looked out and replied, “Applause will do. We don’t want everyone yelling that after every song they like. It’d be chaos. But I appreciate the encouragement, and I know I look like someone who needs it.” That comment got a pleasant reaction from the much of the crowd, but unfortunately the voice wasn’t done. When Nels strapped on his white double-neck guitar for Dawned On Me, the voice audibly yelled out, “Do you know where you are?” I assume it was an allusion to Guns ‘n’ Roses’ “Welcome To The Jungle,” but fortunately things didn’t get any further than that.


Things finally came to a head late in the show when Jeff mentioned before Hold Me Anyway that he and his bandmates had one more new song they wanted to play tonight, but actually had four more they hadn’t played because they wanted to save them for when the album came out — he was including An Empty Corner in that count, though they have played that one elsewhere — but that they would come back and play them some other time. I think the voice must have said something that Jeff possibly misheard as “Don’t come back” or something like that and he tried to get some clarification on what was said. At that point, the voice could clearly be heard saying, “Just sign my fucking ticket.” Jeff finally had had enough and declared that he was done talking with him. “I just realized that this asshole has had a private concert,” Jeff said. So you’re cut off.” Then he started his introduction to Hold Me Anyway again, pointing at different segments of the audience, “This is a new song for you, and for you, and for you…” and then in the general direction of the voice, “Not you.”


I should add that I don’t think Jeff was irate at the voice, at least not the way I’ve seen him furious at disruptors before. This was more of just an annoyance, but it still added a little spice to a show that frankly could probably have used it. It was interesting to me that, if I’m not mistaken, De Roma was one of the first venues on this European tour to sell out and yet the majority of the audience seemed like it was in a semi-coma. It definitely seemed like an older crowd, as evidenced by the queue before the doors opened; I would say about 90 percent headed immediately for the seats in the distant balcony. And maybe the Flemish just aren’t quite as demonstrative as other audiences, but it was a little odd to me that you hardly heard any singing along at all, even at points when virtually every other audience sings at least a little bit, like at the appropriate points in songs like Hummingbird or Jesus, etc. It’s hard to explain, but aside from the chicken and heckling, it just didn’t seem like quite as lively a crowd overall as others on this tour.


Hopefully I’m not being too harsh on the Antwerpians. Certainly De Roma, a beautifully restored movie theater dating back to the 1920s, was a lovely venue with a capacity of around 1,900 standing on the floor and maybe a couple hundred more in the balcony. (Apparently the venue hosted concerts by, among others, The Kinks, Wings, James Brown and Iggy Pop between 1966 and 1982). It’s difficult to compare it acoustically to, say, the previous night’s venue in Utrecht which was designed for music, but despite being a bit echoey wasn't horrid. There also wasn’t nearly the same level of intimacy for those up front, with the band set further back on the stage as well as a healthy separation between performer and audience due to a barricade/photo pit setup. Also of note, the De Roma show did not feature a white backdrop for projections behind the band.


I’ve probably prattled on far too long already, so I’ll cut myself off here. With this opening leg of the OTJ tour quickly winding down, I’m a bit sad to say goodbye to the Continent for a little while but also excited to see what this little UK jaunt brings in these final few shows before everyone will have a chance to hear OTJ for themselves.


Anyway, here was the complete setlist as played (didn't get a look at a printed setlist so can't say if there were any changes/omissions):


Bright Leaves

Before Us

I Am Trying To Break Your Heart

War On War

One and a Half Stars

Whole Love

If I Ever Was A Child

Handshake Drugs


White Wooden Cross

Via Chicago

How To Fight Loneliness

Bull Black Nova

Laminated Cat (aka Not For The Season)


Love Is Everywhere (Beware)

Impossible Germany

Everyone Hides

Red-Eyed and Blue>

I Got You (At The End of the Century)

Dawned On Me

Hold Me Anyway



Random Name Generator

Box Full Of Letters

Jesus, etc.

California Stars

The Late Greats

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Reminds me of seeing Japanese Breakfast last year and a group of people were dancing with a pineapple that eventually found it's way on stage. Seems like bringing a random object might be the cool new way to get noticed by the band.


For the 10s of people who might care, I have updated my post.


Dozens! No, but seriously. These posts regularly get 300ish views. I wonder if that's unique views? Or are the tens/dozens of us refreshing for updates sending the count up?

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