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Wilco — 27 September 2019, Manchester, UK (Albert Hall)

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For a veteran band like Wilco, the penultimate show of a long tour might be one you could expect to be somewhat offbeat (or at least see some atypical things said/done/happen). After all, you’re so close to finishing off another run, so close to getting home and enjoying at least a little bit of a break, but you’re not quite there yet. You want to present the show you’ve been presenting and yet some amount of Groundhog Day-effect might be starting to set in and you have to try and break through it to connect with another audience. :wave


Add to that a venue like the Albert Hall in Manchester, where there always seems to be something to adjust to, and the ingredients for a potentially motley stew are in place. I don’t know what it is about the Albert Hall, which is in fact a lovely room, but there always seems to be something slightly unusual that happens there when Wilco/Jeff are on the calendar. In 2016, if memory serves, there was a major issue with the PA system that threatened to derail the show (and which Jeff blamed on Brexit…is that really how long this whole Brexit mess has been going on?). And last year for Jeff’s solo show, I think the hall was a bit undersold and there was some question about whether the balcony would even be open. This time, it was a strict 10 p.m. curfew (because the venue had a presumably lucrative “club” night on the schedule afterward) that caused the entire show to be moved up so that support act Ohmme took the stage at the odd time of 6:45 p.m.(!) on a Friday night, with Wilco on at 7:45.


So even though Jeff said early on that “it’s good to be back,” it felt to me like things were a bit rushed from the start. Jeff had a couple of minor lyric issues in Bull Black Nova (transposing the “angry star/hood of my car” couplet at the end of the first verse) and Random Name Generator (missing a couple of the chorus interludes like “invisible/instigator,” etc.). And despite some attempts by the crowd at getting Jeff to chat a bit, he mostly kept his mouth shut — at least until the end of the show was in sight.


 “Jeff, where’s your cowboy hat?” one guy shouted after Love Is Everywhere (Beware). Replied Jeff, who had switched back to his black knit Warm hat for the last week or so of the tour, “It’s good to hear from you, sir. But I’m not gonna talk to you.” Then to the audience, “You don’t need me to talk to you: ‘Oh, how’s everybody doing?’ ‘OK, great.’” Another bit of audience back-and-forth came after a brief flurry of “I love you, Jeff” declarations and song requests. “It’s gonna be OK everybody,” Jeff said. “Are you sure?” a man retorted. “No, I’m not sure,” Jeff admitted. “You guys might have it worse than us.” It was pretty funny in the moment, anyway. :yay


At this point, I suppose that in order to maintain my integrity as a correspondent, I must report that once again I became the awkward subject of a bit of Jeff’s banter toward the end of the main set. As usual, it happened before Everyone Hides when Jeff pointed in my direction and said he was glad to see me there because he woke up fearing that his encouragement to the audience the previous evening in Glasgow might have caused such a flood of drinks to be bought for and downed by yours truly that I wouldn’t make it to this gig. (For the record, there weren’t any additional drinks offered to me in Glasgow beyond the initial whiskey I received…haha. And not to be outdone by the Glaswegians, the Mancunians also bought me exactly one drink — a most welcome pint of lager, delivered by a friendly gent who cheerfully made his way through the crowd and handed it to me personally. Cheers to you, sir! :cheers )


Of course, Jeff wasn’t done with me yet. I’m sure he saw me receive the gift beer from that guy, but for some reason a couple of songs later, before Jesus, etc., Jeff asked if he could buy me a drink — “a tonic water with some bitters, maybe?” — and suggested that I might need one because this is “probably the 17,000th time he’s heard us play this song.” Again, you’ll have to go to the tape to if you care enough about exactly what was said. But that’s as far as my memory goes on this subject… :pirate


Certainly Jeff opened up a bit toward the end of the show in general, like when he noticed people sitting in the balcony even in the parts where it curved behind the stage. He pointed them out to Nels, waving at them and saying how close they actually were (almost right on top of the band). “Thanks for sitting there,” Jeff said. “I’m sure it’s been a great-sounding show.” And he introduced Sima Cunningham and Macie Stewart of Ohmme, who joined Wilco on stage during the encore for the first time on the tour to add backing vocals on I’m Always In Love, by saying something to the effect that “you might remember them from the ass-kicking they gave earlier.”


So in the end, it turned out to be a pretty fun — if somewhat truncated — conclusion to the show with the band done by 9:55 p.m. Thanks a lot, Albert Hall club night! Still, I think that given the hurdles with the early curfew and the unique setup of the venue with its high stage and odd acoustics, not to mention being the penultimate show of the tour, things turned out about as well as they probably could have.


Here was the complete setlist, as played (only got a glimpse of the printed setlist, but I thought I saw that Misunderstood maybe was supposed to be the first song of the encore; not sure about any other changes):


Bright Leaves

Before Us

I Am Trying To Break Your Heart

War On War

One and a Half Stars

If I Ever Was A Child

Handshake Drugs

At Least That's What You Said


White Wooden Cross

Via Chicago

Bull Black Nova

Random Name Generator


Love Is Everywhere (Beware)

Impossible Germany

California Stars

Box Full Of Letters

Everyone Hides

Dawned On Me

Jesus, etc.

Heavy Metal Drummer

I'm The Man Who Loves You

Hold Me Anyway



I'm Always In Love (w/Sima Cunningham and Macie Stewart of Ohmme on backing vocals)

The Late Greats

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Be interested to see how that compared to other shows on this tour for you, Paul (I'm only a very occasional poster here, but feel I can call you by your first name after Jeff's prolonged references to you)?


That was the 5th time I've seen them, first in 1995, last 2010 (not sure why there's been such a long gap to last night) - and they blew me away. Best gig I've been to in a long time. They seemed to feed off an enthusiastic and packed audience (that had a much wider age range/gender split than was evident at Jeff's show at the Albert Hall 18 months ago). New songs all sounded great, loved the percussion on them.


The early start and finish even had me briefly imagining being back in my bed at a reasonable hour, until multiple motorway closures/diversions, put paid to that - 7+ hour round trip from Durham to Manchester, and back. Crazy.

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Be interested to see how that compared to other shows on this tour for you, Paul (I'm only a very occasional poster here, but feel I can call you by your first name after Jeff's prolonged references to you)?


Well it was certainly another interesting one, both from a general and personal perspective. Glad you enjoyed it! (Incidentally, I've finally posted my full recap above now...better late than never, right? :unsure)


Ta for filling in the gap.


Tatlock, you never cease to amaze me. I literally just posted! :blink

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