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Wilco — 25 January 2020, Mexico City, Mexico (Teatro Metropólitan)

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At the risk of sounding overdramatic, as a longtime fan and follower of Wilco's exploits, this was a bittersweet show for me to have the good fortune to attend. On one hand, it represented the culmination of a week in Mexico that felt like potentially the beginning of a new era for the band — or, after taking so long to perform south of the border, at least the opening of a new frontier in a way. But at the same time, another era was ending as the band said goodbye to one of the longest-tenured members of its tight-knit crew and who's ever good at goodbyes?

 

Full disclosure: I had gotten wind of the impending retirement/departure of Matrix (aka Matthew McNamara) a few days before, or else this post would probably be even more bittersweet. However you slice it, though, it's not easy to bid farewell to someone who's been such a fixture on stage with Jeff and Wilco for the better part of 13 years. Matrix was not only Jeff's primary guitar tech — and there really haven't been a ton of people who have filled that role in the lifespan of the band, if you think about it — but also the stage manager. So to learn that he was soon to be leaving the band to spend more time with his family and whatever lies ahead was definitely a dose of reality.

 

Jeff formally shared the news with the audience at the Teatro Metropólitan midway through the first song of the encore, Kingpin. When the "How can I?" part kicked in and the crowd had reacted a couple of times, Jeff paused and said, "We're gonna say goodbye to someone very special." He beckoned Matrix over to the front of the stage, said he had been with the band for 12 1/2 years and was heading off into "retirement" after this show and gave him a hug as Matrix waved to the crowd and walked back over to his station. Then the band continued with the song, encouraging the crowd to yell "Goodbye!" instead of the usual screaming after "How can I?" ("It almost works," Jeff quipped.) And then at the final "How can I?" Jeff changed the lyric to "How can I say goodbye to you/when I don't know what to do?" It was all very endearing, and Jeff reassured the audience one last time by joking afterward, "Don't worry, he's going to a farm. He's gonna have lots of room to roam around."

 

Knowing that this was going to be Matrix's last show with the band made a few other observations more poignant and/or humorous over the course of the show. Such as when Jeff had to stop and restart Box Full Of Letters due to an out-of-tune guitar and looked over in Matrix's direction and jokingly yelled off-mike, "You're fired!" And when virtually the entire crew went over to his station just before the start of the show and they could be seen huddling and doing a celebratory shot. And when Matrix and Jeff shared one final hug before A Shot in the Arm just after Matrix had walked out to hand Jeff a guitar for the last time (and Matrix and Nels shared a fist bump as the former walked back to his station).

 

As for the show itself, Wilco played a pretty long one — 29 songs and about 2 hours, 25 minutes — that mostly reverted to the Ode To Joy/greatest hits script with a few notable exceptions. Kingpin, of course, as well as Can't Stand It and Spiders (Kidsmoke) were played after recently returning to the setlist at the Sky Blue Sky festival and Winterlude residency, respectively. And the latter also got some help at the tail end from Sima Cunningham and Macie Stewart of support act Ohmme, who Jeff waved on stage to help with the "bah-bah-bah-bah-bah-bah-bah" singing riff that has been a part of the song in recent years. Cunningham and Stewart, who opened the show with a roughly half-hour duo set that was their first performance in Mexico, also returned during the encore on California Stars and took the entire second verse on vocals without Jeff.

 

Other highlights included a Mexican flag somehow materializing on Pat's side of the stage after Impossible Germany — I assume someone put or threw it up there — and Pat taking it all the way over to Nels' side as he was being applauded for his solo. (Of note to nerds, Nels actually broke a string after his lengthy solo on IG and had to quickly switch out to another guitar to finish the song.) The audience then broke into an "olé, olé, olé, Wilco, Wilco" chant as Nels put the flag first over his head and then draped it over a mike stand or something to his right. The flag also got used as a prop again later when Glenn ended up with it and held it up in front of his face as he stood up on his drum stool for his "rock star" move before I'm The Man Who Loves You.

 

Jeff didn't pay many notable visits to Banter Corner outside of the farewell to Matrix, except to say something at the very start of the show in Spanish that he had clearly tried to rehearse but which I couldn't really hear too well. (I suspect it was that the band was excited to be here or something like that.) And a little over halfway through the show, he remarked in English that he hoped everyone was having a good time. "We've got more music to play for you," he said. "It took us a long time to get here, so we're gonna play as long as we can."

 

The audience was pretty enthusiastic at the Teatro Metropólitan, which is a fairly cavernous 3,000-plus-seat theater in the bustling center of Mexico City. I don't think the show was totally sold out, but it seemed like there were enough tickets sold to at least conceive of another show here someday. And most of the audience stood from the start and remained standing throughout the show, at least that I could see, so that was good. The acoustics weren't the greatest — most of the show sounded pretty boomy to me, to be honest — but when you've been waiting for a band to perform somewhere for more than 25 years, that's probably a relatively minor complaint.

 

Yes, it's taken Wilco a generation to finally embrace Mexico as a destination for its music and brand. But after the success of the inaugural Sky Blue Sky event, other events in Mexico City this week such as Nels and his wife Yuka C. Honda playing music as their side project Cup and an interview with Jeff about his book as well as this one-off Wilco show in CDMX, as the locals call it, it seems like the groundwork has been laid for a return sooner than later. I suppose the only fitting way to end this, then, would be to say...¡Viva Wilco!?

 

Here was the complete setlist, as played (I didn't really get a good glimpse at a printed list, so I can't say if there were any changes, but I suspect not):

 

Before Us

I Am Trying To Break Your Heart

War On War

Handshake Drugs

At Least That's What You Said

One and a Half Stars

Can't Stand It

Hummingbird

Via Chicago

Bull Black Nova

Random Name Generator

Reservations

Impossible Germany

Jesus, etc.

Love Is Everywhere (Beware)

Box Full Of Letters (started and restarted)

Everyone Hides

Heavy Metal Drummer

I'm The Man Who Loves You

Hold Me Anyway

Misunderstood

Spiders (Kidsmoke) (electric arrangement) (w/Sima Cunningham and Macie Stewart of Ohmme on backing vocals)

The Late Greats

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

Kingpin

California Stars (w/Sima Cunningham and Macie Stewart of Ohmme on vocals)

Red-Eyed and Blue>

I Got You (At The End of the Century)>

Outtasite (Outta Mind)

A Shot in the Arm

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I know there are some Ohmme fans on here, so for them, here was their complete setlist, as played:

 

You, Your Face

Fingerprints

Icon

Cloudbusting [Kate Bush]

Water

Grandmother

 

I thought it was pretty ballsy of them to spend nearly a third of their allotted time on a deep cut off their first record. And I was especially glad to hear their version of Cloudbusting, which I hadn't before. Love those guys. :thumbup

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excellent write up. is Matrix the guy w/ the glasses and beard who has a bandana on his head a lot?

I think you might be thinking of their tour/road manager Eric.

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Very solid setlist and happy to see a few of the Sky Blue Sky tunes stick, at least for now. Great report and to feel a little closer to being there (that pun just happens on it's own). Take care Senor PS and see you again hopefully soon on down the line. 

 

Steve

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I know there are some Ohmme fans on here, so for them, here was their complete setlist, as played:

 

You, Your Face

Fingerprints

Icon

Cloudbusting [Kate Bush]

Water

Grandmother

 

I thought it was pretty ballsy of them to spend nearly a third of their allotted time on a deep cut off their first record. And I was especially glad to hear their version of Cloudbusting, which I hadn't before. Love those guys. :thumbup

You, Your Face is a gorgeous song! They opened with it when they opened for Glen Hansard.

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