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Wilco — 23 November 2019, St. Paul, MN (Palace Theatre) [Night 2 of 3]

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While it's undoubtedly a bit pretentious to quote oneself, I looked back at what I wrote following the second night of Wilco's three-night, pre-hiatus run at the Palace Theatre just over two years ago and found this: "I think Wilco has gotten pretty good at presenting a certain show over the years and then varying things just enough to reward people who attend multiple ones without making anyone who might only attend one feel like they missed out."


Now I'm not going to say I was prescient, but that's probably just as good a description for this current three-night run at the Palace. Especially with a new album to promote, Jeff had basically told us on Night 1 to expect a similar framework for the following night's sets with, of course, enough variation to keep the hardcores happy. (Setlist variation, at least with regard to one song, did not please one of our resident hardcores — theashtraysays aka Vince — but more on that later. :chickawow )


In the end, a total of 11 of 29 songs played on Night 2 were not played on Night 1, so a little over a third of the set was different. All eight of the songs from Ode To Joy that the band has been performing on a regular basis were played. So, too, was the fun show-closing cover of Neil Young's Cinnamon Girl with guest vocalists Mimi Parker and Alan Sparhawk from support band Low, who Jeff hailed by saying they "just happen to be one of the best bands of all time" and that they were going to come out once again to help sing the song they had on Night 1 "so you (the Night 2 audience) won't be cheated."


(Incidentally, the 30-minute opening set by the Duluth, Minn., trio featured an element of set design tonight — three tall racks of long, horizontal lights behind them — that added some depth and, well, light to their already-engaging performance. Sparhawk, for his part, thanked Wilco for its friendship and support over the years, saying that his band had benefitted from Jeff and his group's efforts to bring attention to artists and people that deserved to be highlighted. Jeff, of course, produced Low's 2013 album The Invisible Way.)


Of the non-repeated songs, two were true curveballs in the sense that neither had been played thus far on the OTJ tour. The Lonely 1, as always, was lovely to hear; with its plaintive tempo, it slotted perfectly into the spot usually occupied by Reservations. And I Might was an interesting choice, particularly because just over a week prior at a show in Cedar Rapids, Jeff had told a guy wearing a T-shirt that said, simply, "I Might," that "we were talking about it (before the show) and there's no way in hell we could play that right now if we had to." It became a funny moment when the guy took off the shirt and threw it on stage, and I couldn't help but think of him when the band launched into I Might tonight. It was a little bit of a different-sounding arrangement, with Jeff on an acoustic guitar and Glenn emphasizing his drum hits almost in an OTJ march-like style, but nice to hear that one again too after a long break. :thumbup


Meanwhile, we got Laminated Cat in the spot usually occupied by Bull Black Nova despite the efforts of the aforementioned Vince, who flashed one of his trademark signs that Jeff read aloud to the crowd: "New sign, same song. Bull Black Nova." In a mock disapproving tone, Jeff said, "Vince, you need a better sign than that. Plus you heard it last night, ya freak." It seems like the only way to reconcile that spot in the setlist on Night 3 will be with the NovaCat tandem, but with or without Nova, Cat is always fine to these ears. Jeff flubbed the "it's not for the season" lyric, as he sometimes does, saying "they're not worth reading" twice instead, but the end jam turned into a truly hypnotic, swirling one that didn't fade out but got an emphatic ending thanks to Glenn.


As far as Banter Corner, Jeff actually was relatively quiet for much of the show. He did joke a bit about the recent spate of anniversaries in the band's history, saying early on that this was the "24-hour anniversary of our last performance. Exciting time to be alive." And before Box Full Of Letters, he once again noted that this was almost exactly the 25th anniversary of Wilco's first-ever show in the Twin Cities and that this was a song they played that night. "There are a fair number of songs we played that night that we could play (now), but this is the only one we enjoy playing," Jeff quipped. Then before the next song, Everyone Hides, Jeff joked, "Now we present this sophisticated number to show you the kind of progress we've made in 25 years." :lol


Once again, there was a lot of love in the room with plenty of smiles and singalongs to go around. It all came to a head when Jeff gave his spiel about the "fake encore" before Hold Me Anyway and the band basked in a well-deserved ovation. It's meant to be kind of a tongue-in-cheek moment, but it has become a really nice point in the set each night before the band plays Hold Me Anyway, or as Jeff describes it, "the song we wrote specifically for this moment." It wouldn't be a bad way to end the show outright, really, but there was still a bit more ground to cover.


And of course, Night 3 still looms... :dancing


For now, here was the complete setlist, as played, for Night 2 in St. Paul (I didn't get a look at the printed list, but I don't think there were any changes):


Bright Leaves

Before Us

I Am Trying To Break Your Heart


Handshake Drugs

At Least That's What You Said

One and a Half Stars

I Might


White Wooden Cross

Via Chicago

Laminated Cat (aka Not For The Season)

Random Name Generator

The Lonely 1

Impossible Germany

Jesus, etc.

We Were Lucky

Love Is Everywhere (Beware)

Hesitating Beauty

Box Full Of Letters

Everyone Hides

Dawned On Me

Heavy Metal Drummer

I'm The Man Who Loves You

Hold Me Anyway

The Late Greats


Red-Eyed and Blue>

I Got You (At The End of the Century)

Cinnamon Girl [Neil Young] (w/Mimi Parker and Alan Sparhawk of Low on vocals)

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