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Wilco — 8 October 2019, Toronto, Canada (Budweiser Stage)

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After a solid month of touring abroad and an all-too-short week off, Wilco finally brought Ode To Joy to this side of the Atlantic for its first performance since the album's official release last Friday. It came on a chilly night on the shores of Lake Ontario — not quite America yet; that will have to wait until tomorrow night in Boston — at the rather uncreatively named Budweiser Stage (née Molson Amphitheatre). :canada


Truth be told, I'm not exactly sure why the band was booked into this large outdoor shed on a Tuesday night considering most of the other theater-type venues it is playing on this tour. But with Toronto's venerable Massey Hall temporarily closed for renovation — the band played two nights there as recently as 2017 — I guess the promoters/booking agents figured let's get a slightly more established support act (Lord Huron, which got an hour set that is twice as long as what most of Wilco's openers typically get) and take a shot. I'm not sure exactly how many of the 5,500 seats under the roof they sold, but the show was far from sold out.


Anyway, just walking into the place with all of its corporate tie-ins, ridiculously priced concessions and cavernous feel, I didn't have the highest hopes for the show. But thanks to some stellar work by the Wilcrew, especially in terms of the sound and lighting/set design, it turned out about as enjoyably as it probably could have. And despite an apparently strict 11 p.m. curfew, the band did its part as well by debuting another OTJ song, We Were Lucky, as part of a solid overall performance. :yes


That song, which Jeff has said in some interviews that he wrote primarily as a vehicle for Nels to "shred," was obviously a highlight from my perspective. Nels certainly does get some room to do his thing, in a different way than he does on, say, Impossible Germany, but maybe that will appease some of the folks who have said OTJ is too quiet or the rest of the band too restrained. I'm eager to hear it again. And hopefully I'll be a bit closer next time so I can watch Glenn finally use the so-called "marching machine" that has been sitting on a spare snare drum until now waiting to be deployed. From where I was sitting, maybe 20 rows back, it could be a little tough to see what Glenn was doing a lot of the time (even though I pretty much knew). But I did wonder why Glenn didn't have the bass drum head with the swirl design that he had in Europe. I couldn't tell if it had been replaced by one displaying the OTJ cover art, which can appear washed out from as far back as I was, but I'm sure there is some good reason for the change.


Why was I not closer to the stage than usual? To be honest, I hadn't initially planned on coming to this show but the planets aligned and I was able to make it, just not in the first tier of seats. It turned out to be kind of a blessing in disguise, though, because I was able to take in and appreciate the full range of the sound mix and the stage design. The band had the white screen behind them for the abstract projections they had only sporadically been able to use in Europe and those combined with all of the lighting elements made for some interesting visuals that are subtle at the beginning but really add to the production by the end. And as usual, Stan showed why he's one of the best front-of-house engineers in the business to make that place sound relatively good. :thumbup


The curfew was a bit of a bummer, though, because it definitely cost us at least two songs. (Maybe three, because I swear I saw Nels' stool and lap steel being prepared for Jesus, etc., but that song apparently was never on the printed setlist. I'm OK with that, actually. ;) ) Jeff acknowledged the time crunch — as well as his adopted religion — in one of his only visits to Banter Corner, saying, "We don't have a lot of time, so I'm gonna keep the chit chat to a minimum. I would like to say 'Good Yuntif,' to all the Jews who aren't at services (for Yom Kippur)." He also joked that they should let those who were at services know that "this is the last time we're gonna let the goys make the touring schedule." :lol


About the only other noteworthy comments Jeff made, except to thank the audience for coming and that he and his bandmates "always have a great time here" (it's unclear if he was referring to the city or the venue itself, which was also the site of the Toronto stop on the AmericanaramA tour), was to introduce Everyone Hides. "This is a song we made a video for," Jeff said. "There aren't many. There will be few more, so thanks for watching."


It might have taken a little while for Jeff to warm up and it must be at least a little bit challenging to connect with an audience — which, at least around me, remained seated throughout — in a big venue like that. But by the end of the main set, I'll be damned if Jeff didn't have a little bit of spring in his step. I could definitely be mistaken, but did I even detect a little Rockettes-style leg lifting during one of the guitar solos in Hold Me Anyway? Maybe he was limbering up and getting it ready for Radio City Music Hall this weekend. Ode To Joy, indeed... :dancing


Here was the complete setlist, as played (An Empty Corner and Theologians were both listed on the printed setlist as part of the encore but both were cut, almost certainly for time):


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


White Wooden Cross

Via Chicago

How To Fight Loneliness

Bull Black Nova

Random Name Generator


We Were Lucky (live debut)

Love Is Everywhere (Beware)

Impossible Germany

Box Full Of Letters

Everyone Hides

Heavy Metal Drummer

I'm The Man Who Loves You

Hold Me Anyway



California Stars

The Late Greats

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Thanks for sharing! Do you recall when Wilco took the stage? Trying to time some public transit for tomorrow's show ...


Wilco was on right at 9 and off by 11. But I wouldn't necessarily take that to be true for every venue because as I mentioned in my full recap above (now posted), Lord Huron got a full hour set to open, which is double what most of Wilco's support acts have gotten recently.

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Eveybody was stood up in the 100 sections. Some crazy dancing going on too. Awesome show!

"This is a song we made a video for," Jeff said. "There aren't many. There will be few more, so thanks for watching."


Obviously they can't afford Paul's fees (and rider)...


Think he said "There won't be many more"

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So great to see these guys again after a few years away from Toronto.  Some notes:


- A fall Wilco show outdoors was perfect, I'm pretty sure it's last event in the calendar for that venue and the setting was great (although probably too big for a band like Wilco)

- On the subject of empty seats, Jeff made a hilarious joke about booking a show on the same night as Yom Kippur and how they will never hire a "goy" to book their tour again.  Truthfully, the crowd size was pretty good, just the venue was too big

- War on War and How to Fight Loneliness are such amazing songs live

- The new songs sounded great, some more than others but overall made for a nice mix of familiar and unfamiliar

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I should caveat my last statement that the setting was perfect - I say that purely selfishly since I was right up front and really enjoyed the fresh air.  For the band I'm sure it was less enjoyable playing for a half empty venue...

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We Were Lucky looks like it comes across really well onstage.

Yeah, I checked out that Jambase link, and holy cow--the video of We Were Lucky, even though it's unofficial, sounds like it has much better dynamics than the studio version. I guess some of these new songs really come to life in a live setting in ways I would not have anticipated based on the studio recordings.

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haven't posted here in a while (years) but just dropping by to say I was going to go to this show but had an annoying cold so stayed home instead of sitting outside (and i live about 100km out of town so it'd be a late night).  gave my ticket to a friend.  bummed to have missed it, especially since this new album is so awesome.  hope they come back again soon.  though i was disappointed to miss it, i liked being able to go to bed at 10:30pm instead of 12:30 or 1:00 as it would have been had i gone to the show.

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