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Wilco — 20 October 2019, Nashville, TN (Grand Ole Opry House)

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Parking for now. [Edit: Our long national nightmare is over... :yes]


When it comes to attending a concert and then recounting and/or assessing it afterward, the reality is everyone probably has a different perspective. There are so many variables at play, from where one is situated in the room to the people in the immediate vicinity to one’s familiarity with the music to one’s mood that day. And on and on and on, no pun intended. So whenever I offer some thoughts on a show, I always strive to be as objective as possible and stick to what I’ve observed or experienced. But I am also aware that I am human and my take on a given show can be affected — consciously or unconsciously — by some of those variables I mentioned.


So with all of that in mind, please take these words about the Nashville stop on Wilco’s Ode To Joy tour — or any stop, really — with a grain of salt. It might give you a little extra sodium, but the result hopefully makes up for it. :thumbup


Anyway, despite its country music history, the Grand Ole Opry House is a perfectly fine venue for a rock show. It’s a little disappointing when you find out it’s located across the street from a mall and next to a sprawling hotel and convention center, but the 4,000-seat room is more than adequate as a music room. (Though I do wonder if Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit hadn’t currently been in the middle of their annual residency at the Ryman Auditorium, if Wilco wouldn’t have played two nights there instead.)


Like most venues, though, I’m sure the GOOH is best experienced when you have a seat fairly close to the stage. Unfortunately for me, this show was one when I surrendered to the will of the ticket gods and accepted a front-row balcony seat. Not bad, by any means, but also fairly distant. The positive aspect was being able to appreciate the full stage production, with the video screens behind the band displaying the abstract art projections that complemented the lighting design. And the sound was nice and rich, even up in the outer galaxies.


But sitting in the dark and pretty far removed from what was happening on stage, I admit that my attention wandered from time to time. It was almost like watching a specter of the band or something, not in a frightening way, but just as if they weren’t all there. Or maybe I wasn’t. :ninja


Perhaps Jeff got a little distracted at times as well, such as when he flubbed the third verse of Impossible Germany — as bad a flub as he has had in a while — and wasn’t able to recover. He explained afterward that he had been thinking of his dad, who used to watch the Grand Ole Opry and “if he was still alive, how would I explain to him that people were cheering for me plugging in my guitar. I think that’s the extent of what he thought I’d be able to do, so I’m glad I found my place.” A song later, the flub was still on his mind and he took the time to speak the lines he’d missed — “But this is what love is for/To be out of place/Gorgeous and alone/Face to face” — and said he felt like he had a duty to give the audience a full delivery of the lyrics to that song.


There was plenty of interaction between Jeff and various audience members throughout the course of the show, though from my vantage point it could be difficult to discern what was happening. For instance, in the encore, I think Jeff misheard a woman yelling something out —possibly he thought she had said something about “a nine-hour audiobook” — but ultimately Jeff just seemed confused. He asked aloud, at one point, “What the fuck is going on?” And then later said he was “never gonna forget that one.” Perhaps someone who was a little closer to the action can better elaborate… :unsure


Earlier Jeff had arguably his best single visit to Banter Corner, after wrapping up At Least That’s What You Said and as he was trying to introduce White Wooden Cross, when more than one person apparently yelled out in support. “Thanks for the words of encouragement, everyone,” Jeff replied. “I’m aware I have a face that looks like I need that. I’m pretty confident in my shredding. Sort of. But I can write a lot of songs about death, though. That’s why we’re all here!” :lol


Generally speaking, the band presented the set it more or less has while bringing Ode To Joy to the world over the past couple of months. I had hoped maybe we might get at least one curveball like Summer Teeth, which I heard had been played at the Grimey’s in-store earlier in the day, but no such luck. Nonetheless, I certainly think it was a representative performance of Wilco at this point in time and if you were only able to see one on this tour, you could have done worse.


While it might not have been my absolute favorite OTJ show to date, I think the majority of the folks in the crowd probably walked out of the GOOH pretty satisfied with what they had just witnessed. And as for me, I suppose I’ll just have to find a way to get out of the balcony next time. :rock


Here was the complete setlist, as played (I didn’t glimpse a printed setlist, so unsure if there were any 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
How To Fight Loneliness
Bull Black Nova
Random Name Generator
We Were Lucky
Love Is Everywhere (Beware)
Impossible Germany
Box Full Of Letters
Everyone Hides
I’m The Man Who Loves You
Hold Me Anyway
Jesus, etc.
California Stars
The Late Greats

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I really enjoyed the show last night. I’ve seen Wilco about 20 times over the past couple decades but haven’t seen them since Solid Sound 2015. I didn’t realize how much I missed this band! The stalwarts like “Via Chicago,” “Misunderstood” and “Impossible Germany” were great reminders of what an amazing live band Wilco is and the new tunes (specially “We We’re Lucky” and “Everyone Hides”) fit in great. It was a pretty great mix of tunes. Obviously they’re promoting a new record and are going to feature most of those tunes but they hit on all other records except for “the Whole Love.” Only complaint - I would have loved more “Star Wars” since I didn’t see them on that tour and love those songs. Jeff seemed really psyched to be in Nashville and was having a lot of fun with the crowd. Funny banter moments included loving when a guy shouted out “you still got it” since apparently that’s an inside joke among the Wilco band and crew and then when he was confused about what some women was yelling out and he turned to the band and mumbled in a high voice “what the fuck is going on..”

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Well, at the risk of preempting Sir bbop, a few observations from last night's show.

A first for me - at the noisy end of IATTBYH I saw / heard Jeff back off the mic and sing a couple "I'm the man who loves you" lines, just like the record version.  I've never seen/noticed this before.  I was right up on the stage, so I'm pretty sure that's what he did.  Quite cool.

At the start of ALTWYS, when the band first kicks in after Jeff's solo intro, Glenn went quite beast-like as the drums kicked in.  I kinda figured that since he's so deliberate / subdued in all the new tunes, he was just bursting with drummer energy when the got to a song where he can let loose.  And boy did he let loose. 

Glenn's drumming / percussion sounds on those new songs are everything that everyone says they are, and more.  He has a TON of "accoutrements" that he uses to make all the sounds.  For at least one song, he uses a Cabasa (kind of a wooden wheel on a stick with steel balls on the outside, which is usually rotated in your hand) which is attached to a pedal that he plays with his foot while all 4 of his hands are busy otherwise.  All those doodads keeps his tech Ashwin very busy, running out to do "something" to the kit almost as often as Jeff swaps guitars.  During one such equipment swap later in the set, Glenn took a towel and wiped the sweat off Ashwin's head and face... pretty cute moment. 

It's a great setlist, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.  Sure there are some songs we'd all love to hear that are missing.  Sure we could use a break (or not - I'm not judging) from Cali Stars / Jesus / Box most nights.  But the way that the new songs mesh in with the older stuff is superb, and hearing the new songs a little less sparse and with just a little more oomph is pretty damn sweet.  Those drums!! We're gonna miss the OTJ songs just like we miss the Star Wars songs that they played every night but have since shelved (who wouldn't love another Cold Slope / King of You right about now?), so I say get 'em while you can and enjoy the moment.  They are stellar, and the band is rockin em. 

The venue (my first time there) was pretty cool.  I liken it to a supersized Ryman, complete with pew-style seats (padded, tho) fan-shaped and great acoustics.  Very thoughtful fill speakers at the edge of the stage kept things excellent for those of us down front.  The crowd was good, with almost everyone on the floor standing the whole time, and nobody bitching about it.  The 3-D trippy graphics are very subtle but quite pleasant and really enhance the music nicely.


Pat Report:  He's fine.  Moved around a lot, played to the crowd nearby him, smiled and nodded at Jeff and John a few times, seemed to be enjoying himself just fine.  Side note (perhaps related?) - we saw him drive up to Grimey's in his own car separate from the bus... with his GF in the car.  So, yeah, there ya go. 

Nova report: It just gets better and better.  The intro was quite a bit different than I remember it from earlier this year, and for a moment I thought we'd get Lammy Cat instead... but it cruised on out and was glorious as always.  Perhaps it was the "ODE TO NOVA" sign from the audience?  Probly not, but that did not / will not stop me.  Pogo's ensued.  Oh, and the trippy 3-D graphics are perhaps the best on this one. 

Video Cameo report: At both Grimey's and the Opry show, right before playing "Everyone Hides" Jeff mentioned that they made a video for that song.  I'm pretty sure that at both shows he was scanning the front crowd for a certain Uber-Star to continue the quest for complimentary beverages, but came up empty both times. 

I'll let bbop relay the Impossible Flub and justification thereof.  Pretty funny stuff.

There were no changes/omissions for the above set to the printed version. 

I can't wait for the next one!!!


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Glenn's drumming / percussion sounds on those new songs are everything that everyone says they are, and more.  He has a TON of "accoutrements" that he uses to make all the sounds.  For at least one song, he uses a Cabasa (kind of a wooden wheel on a stick with steel balls on the outside, which is usually rotated in your hand) which is attached to a pedal that he plays with his foot while all 4 of his hands are busy otherwise.  



All 4 hands! That's just not fair!

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Thanks for the reassuring news about Mr Sansone. He did look out of sorts when I saw them last month.


He looked engaged and upbeat at the Brooklyn Steel show, too. I was about ten people back on Pat's side and we got several appreciative nods and bows throughout the show. A few windmills and raised guitar neck salutes, too. Was very happy to see that.

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