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Wilco — 18 December 2019, Chicago, IL (Chicago Theatre) [Winterlude Night 3 of 4]

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Ok, I’ve reconsidered and maybe the Chicago Theatre isn’t such a bad place for Wilco show after all. Actually, that’s what I was getting at the other day — or trying to, anyway — when I suggested that the iconic venue is a perfectly adequate locale for the band’s Winterlude residency. Depending on where you’re seated and who’s seated around you, I believe the phrase I used was "generally tolerable." Would it be my first choice? My reply is no. Will there ever be a barnburner of a Wilco show there? Don’t count on it. Could there be worse venues? Signs point to yes. And lastly, O Wise Magic 8-Ball, was tonight’s third of four Winterlude 2019 shows a pleasant way to spend an evening? It is decidedly so. :thumbup

 

With a new support act on board for the second half of Winterlude in the form of charming singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten, Wilco didn’t wait until the encore to make use of her talents and it made for one of the highlights of the show. Inviting her back to the stage with some kind words about feeling fortunate when an artist they admire agrees to perform with them, Jeff and his bandmates began to play the Yankee Hotel Foxtrot deep cut Radio Cure — which, of course, Sharon covered on the recent Wilcovered Uncut compilation — for the first time since they did it as part of the full YHF performance at the Solid Sound Festival in 2017. It was a real treat to hear it again, especially with SVE contributing some haunting backing vocals.

 

Radio Cure slotted perfectly into the setlist spot normally occupied by Reservations, and after three shows this week, you can kind of see the general shape of the set that Wilco seems to want to present right now and where certain songs might slot in and be swapped out during a multi-night stand. So along with Radio Cure, we also got How To Fight Loneliness making an appearance after Via Chicago in a little Summerteeth two-fer and Dawned On Me showing up, as it often does, in the back half of the main set.

 

I Might, meanwhile, was a nice surprise in the first half of the set. Every time the band plays it lately, I just can’t help but think of the guy at a show in Cedar Rapids a few weeks ago who wore a black T-shirt that read simply, “I Might.” At the time, Jeff told him something to the effect that the band had been discussing it but that unfortunately there wasn’t a chance in hell they could play it that evening. (The guy eventually took off the shirt and threw it on stage, but that’s another story.) Anyway, Jeff introduced it by saying, “Here’s a song about setting kids on fire. That’s always good for the holidays.” And the current arrangement is slightly different than they how used to do it, with Jeff on acoustic guitar and Nels and Pat on electric, whereas Jeff used to play a red Rickenbacker and Pat would stay on the keyboard. To me, it makes it sound slightly less garage-y and more of a piece with the OTJ material, especially with Glenn’s distinctive drum hits.

 

One other note I jotted down was that Pat was more animated and engaged than I’ve seen him in a while. He had all his showman moves working during Random Name Generator, for example, holding his guitar up and away from his body and faux-windmilling at times. During Box Full Of Letters, he blazed through the solo and then even took a brief moment to strike a pose near the end. I heard that he had some family in attendance, so perhaps that’s what we can attribute it to, but it was still nice to see. :rock

 

Speaking of Pat, he had another playful moment at the end of California Stars when he — as he did on Night 1 — started to pluck a little fragment of Dueling Banjos on his electric banjo and Jeff reciprocated with the corresponding part on his acoustic guitar. It was a short, but amusing, moment. Prior to that on Cali Stars, what stood out had been the vocals contributed by siblings Sima Cunningham of the band Ohmme and her younger brother, now known as Liam Kazar. The two sang lead together on the second and fourth verses, which was lovely, and also found time to do a little dancing together as well.

 

For the final number of the evening, following a standalone Outtasite (Outta Mind) — which, I have to say, really should have been the more seasonally appropriate Outta Mind (Outta Sight) — Sima and Liam returned to the stage as did Sharon and Jeff announced that the entire audience could probably sing along to this song. And so Wilco began to play the Plastic Ono Band classic Happy Xmas (War Is Over) for the first time ever, and much of the audience did sing along, and it was nice.

 

As far as visiting Banter Corner, Jeff really didn’t head too far in that direction on Night 3. Aside from dedicating a couple of songs to family and friends — Everyone Hides to his brother-in-law Bruce, and California Stars to a friend of the band’s, Jay — he didn’t go off on too many tangents. The funniest quip probably came after Impossible Germany when Nels had already sat down to play lap steel on Jesus, etc. “Nels is gonna sit down and play another instrument now,” Jeff said. “Every night I look over (during Nels’ solo on Impossible Germany) and it’s like a lizard with limbs regenerating; there’s blood and fingers flying everywhere. I don’t know how he does it.” Then, after a perfect pause: “I could do it, probably.” :lol

 

It’s hard to believe that three Winterlude shows are already in the books and we’re coming to end of another run of these shows. I don’t expect a huge amount of change on Night 4, but you never know what Wilco will cook up. Whatever the band decides to play for its final show of the year — and, gasp, decade — I’m sure it will be entertaining. In front of yet another adoring hometown crowd at the good ol’ Chicago Theatre, what could really go wrong? :pirate

 

For now, here was the complete setlist as played for Winterlude Night 3 (there were, once again, no changes from the printed list):

 

Bright Leaves

Before Us

I Am Trying To Break Your Heart

Kamera

Handshake Drugs

Side With The Seeds

One and a Half Stars

I Might

Hummingbird

White Wooden Cross

Via Chicago

How To Fight Loneliness

Bull Black Nova

Random Name Generator

Radio Cure (w/Sharon Van Etten on backing vocals)

Impossible Germany

Jesus, etc.

We Were Lucky

Love Is Everywhere (Beware)

Box Full Of Letters

Everyone Hides

Dawned On Me

I'm The Man Who Loves You

Hold Me Anyway

The Late Greats

----------------------------------

California Stars (w/Sima Cunningham and Liam Kazar on vocals)

Outtasite (Outta Mind)

Happy Xmas (War Is Over) [John Lennon and Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band] (w/Sharon Van Etten, Sima Cunningham and Liam Kazar on backing vocals and percussion

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As I was getting annoyed with the talkers around me last night, I figured that bbpop would have a good review of the venue this time haha.

 

I wish SVE’s vocals were higher in the mix in both of her guest spots, but it was still great. Happy Xmas was an awesome way to close the show. Hoping for An Empty Corner, Summerteeth and I’m a Wheel tonight.

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bbop-I was a few rows behind you (next to the guy screaming “All night long,” repeatedly) and wanted to say hi/introduce myself but that pesky social anxiety kicked in.

 

Super fun show! The set closer was really nice, with Sharon Van Etten, Sima from Ohmme and Liam Kazar joining. I’ve now seen Wilco the same amount of times I’ve seen Ohmme this year. They are a great band. Anywho, can’t wait for tonight!

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It was a real treat to hear it again, especially with SVE contributing some haunting backing vocals.       

Nice! This alone is worth the cost of admission (IMHO).

 

Looking forward to the live stream tonight. :banana

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One other note I jotted down was that Pat was more animated and engaged than I’ve seen him in a while. He had all his showman moves working during Random Name Generator, for example, holding his guitar up and away from his body and faux-windmilling at times. During Box Full Of Letters, he blazed through the solo and then even took a brief moment to strike a pose near the end. I heard that he had some family in attendance, so perhaps that’s what we can attribute it to, but it was still nice to see. :rock

 

 

 

           

 

I thought that's how Pat always is, but I guess I"m basing that on seeing them mostly in Atlanta, where Pat's family is always in attendance.

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Not sure if you guys feel the same way, but I thought last night's show was the best out of the three so far! The row behind me had their talkers, but it wasn't as annoying as the previous nights. Two rows ahead of me, some guy literally passed out. Probably drank too much or maybe just can't handle three nights of Winterlude, but he literally was asleep for more than half of the show. The band sounded super locked in and I just overall had a really great night! Can't wait to see what's in store for the final one tonight! 

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It really does depend where you are in the theater, and who is around you. We had great seats last night, and I thought the show was amazing. But I just cannot understand the people who insist on holding their phone up to take selfies (and then look at them), record the band or send text messages constantly. You are 15 feet away from Wilco in the flesh giving a face-melting performance! Be in the moment!

 

Personally, I don't think you should even be allowed to use your phone if you're in the first few rows. (Probably not popular or enforceable, I know.) Jeff and co. feed off of the energy up front, and it must be at least a little of a letdown for them sometimes to see the distracted apathy. Hopefully the band knows there are plenty of true fans living and breathing the performance and appreciating it with undivided attention!

 

Anyway, not a ton of setlist variety, but I was very excited to get "I Might." I hope there are one or two wildcards for the finale tonight!

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As I was getting annoyed with the talkers around me last night, I figured that bbpop would have a good review of the venue this time haha.

That's my alter ego, actually. He's much more of a pop fan than I am, and also a lot more tolerant...hence the "good" review of the venue. ;)

 

bbop-I was a few rows behind you (next to the guy screaming “All night long,” repeatedly) and wanted to say hi/introduce myself but that pesky social anxiety kicked in.

 

Super fun show! The set closer was really nice, with Sharon Van Etten, Sima from Ohmme and Liam Kazar joining. I’ve now seen Wilco the same amount of times I’ve seen Ohmme this year. They are a great band. Anywho, can’t wait for tonight!

Hey man, wish you would have. Even though we apparently disagree about baseball teams, I think I'm generally pretty friendly in person. I get it about the social anxiety, though. I'm pretty terrible with faces, though usually decent with names so it can take me a little bit to place them if we've met before, which always makes me slightly anxious socially. For instance, I felt like an ass last night when Sima said hi — we know each other a little bit — and I didn't recognize her right away. I wasn't expecting to see her because I thought that benefit show Ohmme is playing tonight was actually last night, so I didn't think she'd be there. Oy... :upset

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I wasn't there last night, but could the person who got the California Stars dedication be Jay Bennett?

 Or Jay Farrar? :glare

 

No, I doubt it was either of those guys (though anytime the name Jay gets mentioned by Jeff, I'm sure that's what some people are thinking). For one, Jeff said, "We're happy he's here," when making the dedication, so unless he was referring to Bennett's ghost, I don't think it was him...

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That's my alter ego. He's much more of a pop fan than I am, and also a lot more tolerant...hence the "good" review of the venue. ;)

 

 

Hey man, wish you would have. Even though we apparently disagree about baseball teams, I think I'm generally pretty friendly in person. I get it about the social anxiety, though. I'm pretty terrible with faces, though usually decent with names so it can take me a little bit to place them if we've met before, which always makes me slightly anxious socially. For instance, I felt like an ass last night when Sima said hi — we know each other a little bit — and I didn't recognize her right away. I wasn't expecting to see her because I thought that benefit show Ohmme is playing tonight was actually last night, so I didn't think she'd be there. Oy... :upset

I’m the rare Sox fan that doesn’t really care about the Cubs. They’re just the NL Chicago team to me. I’m friendly, even though I sometimes come off as disinterested because of said anxiety. Maybe today!

 

Damn, I didn’t see Sima yesterday! We went to high school together, and I think she was a year behind me. She showed me the correct way to play Chinese Apple back then, and it was really nice to reconnect at Solid Sound. Up until last night, I had seen Ohmme more than any other band this year. They are great.

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Had a wonderful time at this one. Hard to believe Winterlude 2019 is coming to a close...

 

Highlight for me was Radio Cure w/ SVE, honestly. Just an incredible performance. The set was just outstanding all the way through and up there for my favorite Wilco shows (on par with The Vic gig in 2011...) 

 

How can people be so awful during shows, though? There was a group of four dad-bros behind me who just wouldn't stop talking. Sometimes it was endearing stuff (a guy, who I assume either didn't know Wilco well or had never seen them live) would comment when a moment really knocked him on his ass (see: Via Chicago, Bull Black Nova, Impossible Germany), but otherwise it was just really frustrating comments about other things ("Are you gonna post this on Facebook", "SHOULD WE DO ANOTHER ROUND?!?!" etc...). Just sucks.

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There was a group of three older guys right behind talking the entire show and a group of extremely drunk, extremely loud bros and chicks a couple rows behind me acting like they were at a house party.  I love Wilco, but all the quiet and nuance doesn't scream "party band" to me!

 

Speaking of nuance - one of my favorite things about seeing multiple shows in a row is focusing for large parts of each one on different band members.  Pat has really impressed me this run, from the keyboard parts, to adding some flavor in the background with the xylophone.  

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Great way to finish the run for me. I agree about the Pat comments. We were on his side, and found myself focusing on him the most. He was fun to watch. Happy Xmas (War Is Over) was amazing. Goosebumps actually. I'm not going tonight but hope they play it again so I can hear it on the broadcast.

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