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Wilco — 28 September 2019, London, UK (Eventim Apollo)

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And just like that the first leg of the Ode To Joy tour is in the books. Well, actually, it has been a relatively long run of 18 shows in 10 countries over 24 days — I think I have those numbers right — so I'm sure Wilco (and the hard-working Wilcrew) are ready for at least a mini-break... :blink

The end of a tour is always bittersweet when you have a support act you really like. And that was definitely the case with Chicago’s Ohmme, the guitar-and-drums trio of Sima Cunningham, Macie Stewart and Matt Carroll. Although we didn't get to see them perform their excellent cover of Kicking Television from the Wilcovered tribute in the current Uncut magazine — I suppose the ultimate dream would have been to see them somehow play KT with Wilco — they did all finally make it on stage together on Heavy Metal Drummer (which followed Cunningham and Stewart adding backing vocals on I'm Always In Love for the second straight night). I'm not sure the two women knew they were going to stay on stage for HMD, but as Cunningham and Stewart took over Pat's keyboard station while he stepped out front on guitar, Jeff said to them, "Don't worry, (the song is) in D." :lol

(Incidentally, Jeff mentioned both in Manchester and London how he hoped people had arrived early enough to catch Ohmme's "ass-kicking" set. Or some variation of that sentiment. Ohmme only had a half-hour set each night, but it changed things up as much as one could reasonably expect from night to night and that effort was appreciated by me, if no one else. From their eerie cover of David Bowie's Girl Loves Me to the rarely played closing track off their first EP, You, Your Face, to a rotation of tunes off their record Parts, their set was always interesting each night.)

So a fun time was had by just about all in Wilco's long-awaited return to the venue Formerly Known As (or FKA, as the kids say) the Hammersmith Apollo and/or the Hammersmith Odeon. I seem to remember attending the previous show there in 2005 when it was called the Carling Apollo Hammersmith, or some such variation, and it being a pretty lackluster seated audience despite a setlist I would probably kill for now, not to mention the presence of Bill Fay(!) in the audience. (A big shoutout to my old friend and former VC regular pneyu, whose blog helped confirm some of the details in my memory. :thumbup )

Fortunately (well, IMHO), this time the entire floor at the Apollo was standing stalls with reserved seating in the balcony, which I think is probably the best setup for Wilco in general. The stage at the venue was surprisingly low for as big a room as that is — 5,000 capacity with standing room on the floor, I think — so it certainly felt surprisingly intimate up front. I'm not sure if that improved the overall crowd energy much, but it certainly was way better than 15 years ago, even though the band continued to play the majority of the songs (seven) off the still-unreleased Ode To Joy record. And even if there was a fainting incident (or something like that) near the front of the stalls that clearly distracted the band during Random Name Generator (note: security responded pretty quickly and I think everyone was all right).

Another plus for this Apollo show was the return of the abstract art projections on a white screen behind the band. Each show on this tour when they have been able to deploy them has gotten an added visual boost, and it seems like the overall presentation has improved each time. As I've said to a few friends along the way, the projections are mostly subtle but when they aren't there, you sort of miss them.

For his part, Jeff seemed to be enjoying himself even a bit more than usual on the final night of this run. He got progressively goofier as the show wore on, flubbing Hummingbird's "...riding alone, town after town, toll after toll..." line almost right away, forcing a restart and drawing an amused look from Glenn and occasionally engaging in some light jogging in place. Jeff caused Glenn to crack up again on I'm The Man Who Loves You when he unleashed a weird — dare I say, garish — riff I've never heard him play before starting the song. And as the band was coming back on stage for the encore, Jeff even playfully ducked into Pat's station for a second before heading back to his usual spot.

As far as Banter Corner, Jeff didn't really say anything he hasn't said in some form before. But I enjoyed how he addressed the audience members who ask how he's doing (usually after Jeff asks them how they're doing). "This is a common occurrence," Jeff said. "There are often men in the audience that are concerned and need to check in with me. I know I look like someone who needs to be tended to." He also reiterated a sentiment from the previous night in Manchester when he introduced Hold Me Anyway as "a song written for this particular moment in time. It's tough times everywhere. You guys might have it worse than us."

And somewhat to my chagrin — and/or amusement, I'm not sure which at this point — Jeff outed me yet again for my "starring" role in the Everyone Hides video, though he thankfully kept it much briefer this time. He joked that there was a guy in the front row called Paul who was "thirsty" (despite my holding up a bottle of water) because they hadn't paid me for appearing in the video. So the band had been asking every night for someone to buy me a drink, or something to that effect. For the record, however, no one at the show did. (A mate did buy me a pint after the show at the cool pub across the way, so don't cry for me, LDN...) :cheers

Instead, I suppose I'll shed a few tears that this chapter of the Ode To Joy cycle is now in the books. As much as I'm looking forward to the band bringing the new songs to audiences back home (and hopefully playing live the ones I haven’t heard yet), a part of me will always remember that this European run was the first time I got to hear most of them. And this trip as a whole is one I certainly won't soon forget, from Poland to Paris, Stavanger to Scotland and all the friends — old and new — that I got to hang with along the way. I just hope it won't be too long before our paths cross again... :pray

Here was the complete setlist, as played (I didn't see a printed setlist, so can't say for sure if there were any changes/omissions/additions):

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
Hummingbird
At Least That's What You Said
White Wooden Cross
Via Chicago
How To Fight Loneliness
Bull Black Nova
Random Name Generator
Reservations
Love Is Everywhere (Beware)
Impossible Germany
California Stars
Box Full Of Letters
Everyone Hides
Jesus, etc.
Theologians
I'm The Man Who Loves You
Hold Me Anyway
Misunderstood
---------------------------------
I'm Always In Love (w/Sima Cunningham and Macie Stewart of Ohmme on backing vocals)
Heavy Metal Drummer (w/Cunningham and Stewart on backing vocals and keyboards and Matt Carroll of Ohmme on percussion)
The Late Greats

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With Mrs Tatlock in tow (first Wilco show after passably enjoying JT solo last year, and not far off first decent scale rock show) the logistics of the day were always going to be skewed from the Wilco-obsessed ideal, so sorry I didn't get to have my usual nod of the head and couple of lines of chat with the main correspondent (and I would have bought him a drink of course). We arrived half way through OHHME and were standing half way back just as the floor rises to give a good full view of the band whilst still feeling close enough.

 

Very pleased to catch HTFL I think for the first time, and ALTWYS not for a long time. My enjoyment overall was affected by the sound though - bass and bass drum seemed way too loud and distorted bleeding into everything else, with vocals practically indecipherable. Only the quieter tracks (especially Reservations) sounded proper to me. That did take the shine off the evening. With quite a few rockers and an upbeat encore the visceral enjoyment of a rock band did carry me through, but for me it would have been so much better with the volume on 10 not 11. For that reason, my usual bugbear of Jesus etc. I actually loved as one of the quieter songs where words and more delicate touches were clear - with a very good sing-along really enhancing it (often a half hearted sing-along only detracts). Full disclosure - I don't really know the words. Everyone Hides is an instant live classic methinks, and Hold Me Anyway held it's own in the setlist. The rest of the new songs, especially at the top of the set suffered because of the sound as far as I was concerned so I could not make out much or come to a decision on those - all that was discernible was the chugging rhythm and that was about it.

 

Pat Watch

After some comments a few nights back I was keeping half an eye on Pat (and being a bit further back I could take in all the band at once). I was concerned. He seemed very disconnected and sullen to my eye. No eye contact with the rest of the band even during the 3 guitar thing at the end of IG. He was mopping over his keyboards in what appeared to be a half-hearted way most of the time. Only when he was up with guitar in hand for RNG and Box Full Of Letters was there a half smile from time to time and a few shapes thrown. As the band left the stage he was almost pointedly last and I had a flashback of that bit from IATTBYH where Jay is seen leaving the stage after his last show. It was with relief that I saw him finally start communicating with the rest of the band and seeming to enjoy himself during the encore, but taken as a whole he seems off colour. If there is an issue I hope it works out OK. Wilco needs it's rock God and I don't say it in jest or to be demeaning when I say how much I like his little interjections of percussion that add a layer of sparkle on songs that I love even if it can often get lost or unappreciated and not worth bothering with in the big sound scheme of things.

 

Couple of other comments before I set myself down to watch Wales v Australia in the rugby world cup (from Japan): The vocals of the 2 ladies added a lot to the the fizz of the encore. Whilst the backdrop projections are mostly pretty static (though there were hints that that might change in a couple of lava lamp type sequences), what was a nice touch was that whilst the band were off for the encore the backdrop showed a filmed sequence of someone painting the name Wilco letter by letter in the loose brushed style that I think was on there website previously. It was an engaged, just rowdy enough Saturday night audience and the band seemed to appreciate the energy getting back to them. Please come back soonish, but with just a tad less muddied sound next time. 

 

Edit. There was a moment of strobe lighting sometime in the encore that was over in a couple of seconds but as it finished I felt like I was just 'coming to' as if instantly sent into a deep sleep by the light effect. If it had gone on for longer I might have collapsed. Weird - definitely nothing like that has happened to me before. Or maybe I was just swooning over Glenn. He was great the whole night.

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The Hammersmith Odeon used to have a bit of a mystique/legendary status about it. Probably due to the number of live albums recorded there and seeing its name week after week in the music press whilst growing up, miles away from London. Now, in the 21st century, in an ever shrinking world, a 2/3 hour trip to London to see a band is far easier now than it used to be. The constant changing of name has no doubt contributed to it losing the legendary status. There was a big stink when the first change took place from Odeon to Carling Apollo. I have lost count of the times it's changed its name since then. *I heard a rumour that after Brexit it will revert to Hammersmith Odeon.

 

Safe travels Bbop, sorry to have missed you in Glasgow. 

 

--K Theroux...

 

 

* I haven't but you never know.

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Very late call for me to get to this one. Picked up a ticket off a scalper in the street when gig had already started so got in for under face value,First time in a good while, Wilco had disappeared from my life a bit over the ‘Star Wars’ and ’Schmilco’ period (below par imo).

 

Agree that Pat looked a bit disconnected/bored early on but perched up a bit in second half. Couldn’t help noticing that Jeff does seem to like the Greatest Hits approach in London (maybe the crowd history from years back?) Aside from new stuff, setlist wasn’t a million miles from Shepherd Bush Empire shows in 2007 ie heavy on the great stuff (ALTWYS, VC, Misunderstood etc) and better known material. After a while away, to these ears they sounded as great as ever. Jeff got going with crowd only towards end. Always prefer it when he connects, and crowd want that back and fore in London. Part of the entertainment. Lovely to hear HTFL and Reservations took me back to Shepherds Bush twelve years ago (blimey). Got me listening to Kicking Television again today. Great live album and nice to hear many of the best bits last night.

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Hey Paul, another great run of Wilco reviews. Thanks for all you do. See you in Saint Paul??

And thanks to everyone else for adding their thoughts for this one. 

In regards to "Pat Watch", I feel like people were expressing these concerns about Pat before the hiatus as well. You never know what someone like him is dealing with, both in the band and in person, but my guess would be he's just focused on stage. 

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Hi Paul, many thanks for the steady flow of reports from all over Europe. We could only make it to the Elbphilharmonie this time around. I saw you from the balcony but did not see you after the show to meet, greet and hug you. The missus sends greetings as well, we'll try to do better next time. Have fun on the next leg of the Joytour.

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"Instead, I suppose I'll shed a few tears that this chapter of the Ode To Joy cycle is now in the books. As much as I'm looking forward to the band bringing the new songs to audiences back home (and hopefully playing live the ones I haven’t heard yet), a part of me will always remember that this European run was the first time I got to hear most of them. And this trip as a whole is one I certainly won't soon forget, from Poland to Paris, Stavanger to Scotland and all the friends — old and new — that I got to hang with along the way. I just hope it won't be too long before our paths cross again...  :pray  "

 

The pleasure was all ours. If I'd known there was a good bar opposite Hammersmith Odeon I'd have come all the way to buy you a drink.  Even though you're a lightweight.  FFS

 

:upset  :upset  :upset

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With Mrs Tatlock in tow (first Wilco show after passably enjoying JT solo last year, and not far off first decent scale rock show) the logistics of the day were always going to be skewed from the Wilco-obsessed ideal, so sorry I didn't get to have my usual nod of the head and couple of lines of chat with the main correspondent (and I would have bought him a drink of course). We arrived half way through OHHME and were standing half way back just as the floor rises to give a good full view of the band whilst still feeling close enough.

 

Figured you must've been there and I was half-expecting the usual tap on the shoulder at some point, but I'm glad you made it with Mrs. Tatlock. Sorry the sound wasn't so good where you were; I heard both compliments and complaints about it from various people, depending on where you were situated in the room. And indeed, regrets that we didn't get our triennial few minutes of in-person chit chat...here's a virtual wave. :wave

 

For those not following at home, Wales won, great game  :badger   

 

I actually caught the end of that game. Glad your lads hung on! :thumbup

 

What happened to the Scots the following day?

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Hey Paul, another great run of Wilco reviews. Thanks for all you do. See you in Saint Paul??

 

Hi Paul, many thanks for the steady flow of reports from all over Europe. We could only make it to the Elbphilharmonie this time around. I saw you from the balcony but did not see you after the show to meet, greet and hug you. The missus sends greetings as well, we'll try to do better next time. Have fun on the next leg of the Joytour.

 

Hi Paul I still make a point of reading your reviews after every show but this is the first time I’ve signed in and posted in years. Love them and would hate for you to stop, you do a tremendous job. Still swooning after the 3 shows I attended and will for days to come. Thrilled to bits to see you again after all this time. It’s been the best week and I CANNOT wait to see Wilco again xx

 

The best part of this European run for us here in the states? Paul's reports.

 

If I wasn't already looking forward to Boston on October 10th, these recaps did the trick.

 

Aw, you all know how to make a guy feel all tingly inside... :blush

 

Thanks so much for the kind words, both here and by those who have approached me in person to say they've enjoyed these little blasts from the road. I know I joke around sometimes about my 10s of regular readers, but it does mean a lot to know that there are some people out there who still think it's worthwhile to spend a few minutes of their time reading something I've written. I might drift off into retirement someday, but hopefully it won't be anytime soon! :dance

 

And just a reminder that this is supposed to be a discussion forum, so anyone is encouraged to chime in with thoughts/opinions/whatever. My musings definitely shouldn't be considered the be-all, end-all of any given show discusssion. I just hope to maybe offer a little perspective and a little summary of some things I consider worthy of note (or bits of tid, as a college friend of mine once said).

 

I certainly will be relying on others to hear about some of these upcoming OTJ shows in the U.S. since I won't be able to make it to as many as this past month in Europe. For instance, I'll have to miss the Boston shows next week as well as the upcoming shows in Washington, Cary, N.C., Atlanta and Birmingham (though I do currently plan to be in NYC/Nashville/Tulsa/Texas). And to answer your question, TCP, yes I should be in Saint Paul again as well, so I'll see you there! :thumbup

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What happened to the Scots the following day?

They won to keep their chances of getting out of the group on track after defeat by Ireland, who themselves then lost to Japan in the shock of the tournament so far. So their group is all over the place and if will come down to Scotland versus Japan in the last game.

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And to answer your question, TCP, yes I should be in Saint Paul again as well, so I'll see you there! :thumbup

Excellent news!! See you there.  Or Nashville first to be precise. 

And hats off from me on the reviews....but a little more Nova coverage wouldn't kill ya, would it?? :lol

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I certainly will be relying on others to hear about some of these upcoming OTJ shows in the U.S. since I won't be able to make it to as many as this past month in Europe. For instance, I'll have to miss the Boston shows next week as well as the upcoming shows in Washington, Cary, N.C., Atlanta and Birmingham (though I do currently plan to be in NYC/Nashville/Tulsa/Texas). And to answer your question, TCP, yes I should be in Saint Paul again as well, so I'll see you there! :thumbup

Thanks for all of your stellar reportage, Paul, and thanks also for the heads up about the shows you’ll have to skip. I’ll be at the DC and Cary, NC shows and will do my best to at least provide an accurate set list for those two, as well as Charlottesville in November. (Although you didn’t mention that one, so maybe I’ll see you there?) It’s been great to go on this virtual jaunt through Europe with you. Rest up and I’ll see you in St. Paul!

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Ohmme only had a half-hour set each night, but it changed things up as much as one could reasonably expect from night to night and that effort was appreciated by me, if no one else.

 

 

Me too! My excitement about the support led to me getting London and Manchester tickets. First time I have bought tickets for 2 shows on a tour, for any band. Of course Ohmme coming on at 6.45 in Manchester could have screwed things up...

 

Very appreciative to hear a rare live rendition of 'You, your face'.

 

I think everyone else has said enough about Wilco!

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