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Wilco — 20 November 2019, Omaha, NE (Orpheum Theater)

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Normally I'm not that big a subscriber to the notion that expectations should be much higher for the final show of a given stretch of touring than any other on that particular run — the last show of an album cycle or era is a different story — and I suppose that was especially true when I saw where this set of Ode To Joy tour dates initially seemed to be wrapping up. The Orpheum Theater in Omaha, Neb., where Wilco had played once before more than 12 years ago, just seemed like sort of a random place to conclude a run.


Of course, this weekend's three-show residency in St. Paul, Minn., later got tacked on and rendered any thoughts of an Omaha finale moot. As it turned out, if Nebraska had indeed been the end of the road for a little while, it would have been a pleasant, if slightly offbeat, sendoff for the band. And it happened to be yet another Wilco Wednesday, as Jeff pointed out at one point, so some quirks were bound to happen. (The merch pretty much has to be coming at this point, no?)

Things got off to an inauspicious, though entirely foreseeable, start when the band came out and a few brave souls dared to remain standing after the initial ovation. This was followed by the occasionally tense sit-stand dynamic that has marked more than a few shows recently when some people try to shout down the standers while others keep standing or sitting based on songs they know or don't or old songs versus new songs. It's honestly getting to be a little tiresome. But fortunately, those initial few standers at the Orpheum stood their ground — no pun intended — and about a third of the way through the show, there was at least an approximate split on the orchestra level between standers and sitters.


After poking a little fun at himself for his first time adopting a "sugar bowl" stance instead of his usual teacup (one fist on hip) during Hummingbird, which always draws a chuckle from the audience, Jeff finally remarked on the the sit-stand issue though he tried not to take sides. "I see there's some disagreement about whether to stand or sit," Jeff said. "If you're looking at us (to decide), we don't have a dog in this fight. We see the comfort of sitting — it is a Wednesday night and some of you have to get up early. We get it. But then others of you want to have a good time. Both are equally understandable." Then Jeff conceded that if there was one song in the set that might be suitable for sitting, it might be the subsequent one about roadside memorials to people who have died. And of course, few paid Jeff much mind because about the same proportion of folks remained standing during White Wooden Cross.


I suppose the next stretch of songs, despite not including the NovaCat tandem, cemented the standing vibe for the remainder of the show. Even the potential depth charge of Reservations, which has occasionally sunk an indecisive crowd, fortunately did not cause most to sink back into their seats. And by the time Jeff was able to inform the crowd that "we're done with the laments for the evening," the majority of the people on the orchestra level were on their feet for the duration.


Around this time, I guess Jeff also started to loosen up a bit himself as he usually does. He called out a woman toward the front for having a "terrible scream," which I must confess I'm sort of thankful I wasn't close enough to hear. Then there was some further back and forth between Jeff and, I assume, this woman and some of her female friends, which involved discussion of the screamer possibly going to Mexico for the Sky Blue Sky festival and Jeff half-jokingly asking if the group was a bachelorette party. Again, I wasn't anywhere near close enough to accurately report all of the shenanigans, so I can only go by Jeff's reactions to them.


There's some serious Wilcomania happening up here," Jeff said after Theologians. "Oh, it's Wilco Wednesday. Wilco Wednesday is like Taco Tuesday, but with Wilco. It happens everywhere we go. It's the weirdest night of the week."


Some of that "weirdness" was endearing as well, including a woman toward the back of the room dressed in a silver sequined jumpsuit for no apparent reason. She must have been a beacon in the darkness for Jeff, who gave her a nice shoutout in the encore that included a characterization of her outfit as "heartwarming." (I caught up with her briefly in the lobby afterward, where she happily displayed a copy of the setlist she had been given and seemed very wholesome and pleasant.)


All in all, she was probably as good a metaphor for the show itself as could be concocted. Finnish support band Tuomo and Markus, concluding their brief run of shows with Wilco, also got a nice mention from Jeff in the encore and were pretty well-received, it seemed. (I also happened to be on the same flight with them from Denver, though I didn't really get a chance to say hello.)


So thanks for a very nice night, Omaha. And while I'm glad the touring year for Wilco in 2019 (or for me) won't conclude on the Nebraska-Iowa border, I also hope it won't take the full band more than a decade to make it back your way...


Here was the complete setlist, as played (there were no changes from the printed list):

Bright Leaves
Before Us
I Am Trying To Break Your Heart
War On War
If I Ever Was A Child
Handshake Drugs
Side With The Seeds
One and a Half Stars
The Joke Explained
White Wooden Cross
Via Chicago
Bull Black Nova
Random Name Generator
Impossible Germany
Jesus, etc.
We Were Lucky
Love Is Everywhere (Beware)
Box Full Of Letters
Dawned On Me
Everyone Hides
I’m The Man Who Loves You
Hold Me Anyway
I’m Always In Love
California Stars
The Late Greats

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