bböp Posted December 16, 2019 Share Posted December 16, 2019 I can just see the soon-to-be JamBase headline now, likely based on this report and/or other social media: Wilco bust out Beatles, Soft Boys covers with Robyn Hitchcock on first night of Chicago residency. Am I right? More on that later, of course, but since I’m kind of having an existential crisis as the year — and the decade — rapidly draw to a close, I wanted to first say that it occurred to me tonight while taking in Night 1 of another Wilco Winterlude in Chicago that the band really has become something greater than the sum of its parts. A little over 25 years into its career, Wilco has become an octopus-like entity whose arms extend in so many different directions. Just take a look around at the crowd at the Chicago Theatre, and you’ll see fans both new and old, hardcore and casual, some of whom traveled here from around the country and the world, others from across town. You’ll see relatives and friends of band members, crew and management. You’ll see people the band has collaborated with on merchandise, charitable endeavors or other pursuits. And who knows what other connections I’m missing… What makes this different from any other show and why does any of this matter? I don’t know, really. I guess I just wonder whether we’ll all be doing this next year, or in five years or in 10. Will I still be around? Will the band? Anyway, I suppose it’s a reminder to try and appreciate the moment because it’s probably even more fleeting than we realize.How to tie this all into a recap of the first night of Winterlude 2019? Again, I don’t really know except perhaps to say that proper perspective is paramount. Was this among the top tier of Wilco shows I’ve seen? Can’t say it was. Was this a good representation of the show the band wants to present right now as it supports its latest record, Ode To Joy? Most definitely. Was there any extra significance to the show taking place in Chicago? In my opinion, not really. Was it nice for local folks who might not have gotten a chance to see the band play in a while, or see the OTJ material live yet? Certainly.Of course, from this correspondent’s viewpoint, the final two songs of the show were highlights as Jeff invited support act Robyn Hitchcock back to the stage and introduced him as one of the band’s heroes. With Hitchcock, who sported one of his trademark polka dot shirts, assuming lead vocal duties, Wilco launched into the appropriately trippy sounds of the Beatles' Tomorrow Never Knows. It’s a song Jeff and Co. played a handful of times with various folks on the Americanarama tour in 2013 but not since and once at a festival in 2016 with Bob Weir, and it was a welcome surprise. Then to top off Night 1, the Wilco-Hitchcock (Wilcock? Hitchco?) tandem naturally blazed through I Wanna Destroy You, the Hitchcock-penned tune recorded by the Soft Boys in 1980 and Uncle Tupelo just over a decade later. According to Greg Kot's Learning How To Die, Uncle Tupelo’s version of I Wanna Destroy You, producers hoped, would be included on the Still Feel Gone album, but only got released as the B-side to the Gun single.Prior to that, the show was a good example of a standard OTJ set. Everyone Hides, of course, got a little extra plug from Jeff, who noted that the video was shot all over Chicago and that it was “the first video in like 20 years we put ourselves in. For good reason. It’s not our strong suit.” And the back-to-back performances of We Were Lucky and Love Is Everywhere (Beware) mid-way through were welcome, if not exactly unexpected.As far as other noteworthy songs, Impossible Germany featured a pretty lengthy Nels solo, and being seated pretty far over on Pat’s side, I appreciated the clarity of the sound mix because sometimes when you’re over on one side or the other, you can’t hear the other side nearly as well. And there was a little amusing moment between Pat and Jeff after California Stars when Pat doodled around with a little fragment of Dueling Banjos on his banjitar and Jeff briefly reciprocated with the other part on his acoustic guitar. Jeff announced fairly early on his intention to "keep the chit-chat to a minimum," but of course his tongue got looser as the show wore on. For instance, after Hummingbird, Jeff responded to people yelling random things by saying, "We like individual expressions of approval. When everybody’s yelling, it’s hard to tell what compliments you’re giving us. Let’s go one at a time." Of course, that only led to more people yelling stuff — I believe he put a woman who yelled it was her birthday in her place — and Jeff jokingly admitted losing control of the crowd. "Let’s go back to songs about crushing sadness," he quipped. A few songs later, Jeff put on his used-car salesman guise while introducing Jesus, etc. "Let’s sing this one together, if you feel like it," he said. "I’m not gonna hard sell it: 'What’s it gonna take to get you guys into a singalong?'" And he also joked before Box Full Of Letters that he thought the audience had made it through all of the laments, "so let’s get this party started with some mid-tempo rock." He also had a funny introduction to Theologians, which he dedicated to his father-in-law Peter, by saying, "Thank you for taking my side most of time in arguments with your daughter." Of course that led perfectly into the next song, I’m The Man Who Loves You, which Jeff dedicated (as he always does) to his wife Susie, "who’s probably mad at me for what I said about the last song."That’s about all she wrote for Night 1 of Winterlude 2019, I think, except to say that I don’t think any residency at the Chicago Theatre will ever approach the heights of those previously held at general-admission venues like the Riviera or Vic Theatres, the Fillmore in San Francisco or, more recently, the Palace Theatre in St. Paul, Minn., at least from a serious fan perspective, so you kind of have to take this week’s shows with a grain of salt. The Chicago Theatre, I would say, is generally tolerable depending on your seat location and who’s sitting around you, but it will never be a great room for Wilco, IMHO.Maybe I’ll get into that more as the week goes on, but I don’t think I’m terribly off base with that statement. But again, any opportunity to see Wilco on a multi-night stand — especially with excellent support acts — can’t be a bad thing. After all, you never know when you might be looking back and pining for the days of Winterlude, no matter what the venue. Here was the complete setlist, as played, for Night 1 (there were no changes from the printed list):Bright LeavesBefore UsI Am Trying To Break Your HeartWar On WarOne and a Half StarsHandshake DrugsSide With The SeedsHummingbirdWhite Wooden CrossVia ChicagoBull Black NovaRandom Name GeneratorReservationsImpossible GermanyJesus, etc.We Were LuckyLove Is Everywhere (Beware)Box Full Of LettersEveryone HidesTheologiansI'm The Man Who Loves YouHold Me AnywayMisunderstood----------------------------------I'm Always In LoveCalifornia StarsThe Late GreatsTomorrow Never Knows [The Beatles] (w/Robyn Hitchcock on vocals)I Wanna Destroy You [The Soft Boys] (w/Robyn Hitchcock on vocals) Quote Link to post Share on other sites
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