Jump to content

Wilco — 25 October 2019, Houston, TX (Revention Music Center)

Recommended Posts

It was hardly Joni Mitchell at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970 telling a crowd to "give us some respect," but in his own way, that's what Jeff was asking for tonight at Houston's Revention Music Center when he expressed his feelings about a segment of the audience conflicted between being engaged by the performance they were attending and checking their phones for updates on how the hometown Astros were faring in Game 3 of the World Series.


Almost from the first time Jeff addressed the audience, following Ode To Joy track One and a Half Stars, he decided to confront the proverbial elephant in the room. "I realize that at least a third of you are watching the game on your phones," Jeff said, half-jokingly. "Maybe a fifth of you." Then somebody near the front must have asked Jeff what the score was. "I don't know the score," Jeff quickly shot back. "Let's try to focus, everybody. Spoiler alert: Someone's gonna lose. I'm glad I addressed this. I think it was the right move; I stand by it."


I'm not sure if anything specific set Jeff off, or if it was just the collective disengagement he observed in the people he could see in the first few rows, but things finally came to a head not long after his previous comment when he came clean with the crowd. I'm going to paraphrase here, but basically Jeff said it was difficult as a performer to perform when he could see people distracted and likened it to someone who keeps looking at their phone when you're trying to talk to them. He said that he knew people had paid good money to come to the show and that he wasn't telling them what to do, but "we're here to play for you and also to play with you." Added Jeff: "We're sensitive types."


(Not too sensitive, however, to throw out a little zinger when someone — I think? — made a comment about how Wilco was better than a baseball game. "We're better than your first two games," Jeff quipped, referring to the favored Astros losing the first two games of the World Series to the Washington Nationals. Sick burn, as the kids say. :ninjatorch )


There were certainly plenty of things you could nitpick apart from the the distracted folks in the front. Things like the lack of crowd energy during Laminated Cat, which I know is not even technically a Wilco song but which all but the most casual fans should know by now. Or the weird acoustics in the room that made Nels and Glenn sound almost muffled at times. Or the stand-up, sit-down dynamic early on, when people would sit for songs they didn't know, then stand for one they did, then sit down again. Or the dummy behind me who kept loudly and repeatedly yelling, "Play Kidsmoke!" between songs. Let's just say Houston on a Friday night didn't necessarily bring it in all the best possible ways, IMHO. :frusty


And yet, probably unbeknownst to most of the crowd at the Revention — a 2,400-seat room that has changed names fairly frequently but where the band has played numerous times over the years — it was actually getting a better set than it probably deserved, including the tour debut of Shouldn't Be Ashamed, the rarely played (at least all together) trio of Bull Black Nova, Laminated Cat and Random Name Generator and the twangy two-fer of Forget The Flowers and California Stars. Not to mention the live debut of a lovely duet on You And I between Jeff and support act Molly Sarlé during the encore. :thumbup


Still, the distracted audience theme dominated Banter Corner. After Reservations, Jeff asked, "Are we friends again? I want you to be happy and I want your team to win. I want everybody's team to win. And I sometimes look at my phone when people are talking to me, too ... but not during a Wilco show." (For the record, the Astros did win, 4-1.) And a bit later, Jeff shared a brief anecdote about how Uncle Tupelo once played a show in Oxford, Miss., during a World Series when the Atlanta Braves were playing. "The entire audience turned the other way (to watch the game on the TV at the bar, presumably), so this is a big improvement," he said. "We've got some divided attention. It's OK. Let's play some older songs for you."


By the time Jeff and his bandmates returned for the only real encore — despite Jeff continuing his recent trend of asking the crowd before the penultimate main-set song Hold Me Anyway to pretend the band had already gone off stage and come back on — all seemed to be forgiven. Perhaps spurred by the cool visual image of someone painting the word Wilco on a pane of glass that was part of the package of abstract art projections in use once again tonight, a decent chunk of the audience even took up a "Let's go, Wil-co!" chant that I think the band appreciated. As far as establishing a connection between performer and audience, I guess better late than never, right? :wave


Anyway, here was the complete setlist as played (there were several changes in the encore from the printed list, including the omissions of An Empty Corner, A Magazine Called Sunset (!) and Heavy Metal Drummer as well as the addition of the ultimately show-closing Outtasite (Outta Mind)):


Bright Leaves

Before Us

I Am Trying To Break Your Heart

War On War

One and a Half Stars

Handshake Drugs


Shouldn't Be Ashamed

White Wooden Cross

Via Chicago

Bull Black Nova

Laminated Cat (aka Not For The Season)

Random Name Generator


We Were Lucky

Love Is Everywhere (Beware)

Impossible Germany

Forget The Flowers

California Stars

Box Full Of Letters

Everyone Hides


I'm The Man Who Loves You

Hold Me Anyway



You And I (w/Molly Sarlé on vocals)

The Late Greats

Outtasite (Outta Mind)

Link to post
Share on other sites

I was there, and picked up a couple sweet tickets center front from a fellow fan here (Thanks!), and sat next to a superfan couple from Chicago who just moved here. Kinda weird night, as noted above. I watched them here about 6-7 yrs ago, when the front was GA, and it was rocking. Tonight was definitely a money crowd, and honestly the venue sound is very marginal. Hate assigned seating at Wilco show in front - the reason I didn't get tickets when they went on sale. But couldn't resist, and glad we did. Really nice set. Energy was mixed. 8 of 11 off the new album, and this crowd in general didn't know them, which hurt the energy in the room - I liked these new tracks better live. Great version of Laminated Cat. I will say though that I won't see them again with assigned seating in front - the real fans and the energy of the crowd loses out. Austin should be rocking this weekend with GA in front - they love to play there and I wish I could be there. The Austin Stubbs BBQ show a few years back was epic - get that Roadcase if you haven't heard it. AND CRAP - they didn't play A Magazine Called Sunset!!! Never heard live - damn cell phones

Link to post
Share on other sites

As a native Houstonian, I can safely (and sadly) say that last night’s crowd was about as predictable as they come. Most of the crowd remained seated with a general level of polite interest but no real commitment. Game 3 surely contributed to the vibe to some extent (we’re also one of the most bandwagon-jumping set of sports fans you’ll find), but I’ve seen that dynamic unfold at dozens of seated shows in that venue, so it wasn’t really a shock. Unfortunately the alternative would have been a super chatty, “phones up” crowd, which is what nearly all GA shows turn into in town. So, it’s sort of a damned-if-you-do/don’t situation, which I know isn’t unique to H-town by any stretch of the imagination. And, as Nez politely pointed out above, the sound in the venue is “marginal” (i.e. an airplane hanger had better acoustics), so if you’re not in one of the very few sweet spots, even with a wizard like Stan at the board, it’s going to be muffled and flat. It would be tremendous to have the band play at a different venue in town, but I think we’re fated to experience shows there for a variety of reasons. Oh well. Despite all of that, at least we’re fortunate to actually have the band come to town fairly frequently, which I know isn’t a luxury all markets get.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...