bböp Posted August 19, 2021 Share Posted August 19, 2021 Well, that was something. On a scorching, muggy-as-all-get-out night in Richmond — one that Carrie Brownstein of Sleater-Kinney had likened to "playing on the surface of the sun," though I guess it was par for the course for mid-August in the Virginia capital — the It's Time tour stop here went from one of those outdoor events you merely tolerate and sort of secretly want to get over with to maybe the best show on the run so far. At least as far as Wilco's performance was concerned. Now I haven't been to all of the shows on this tour — I wasn't at Red Rocks, for instance, though I did watch the live stream — so I realize that I could be speaking out of turn here when I suggest that this was the best post-pandemic performance yet by Jeff and his bandmates. But I've been to enough shows to appreciate when there is something a little extra special in the (thick, sticky, heavy) air. Part of that could have been attributed to the weather, part of it due to the somewhat unique setting and part of it just some of the unexplainable magic of live music, but whatever it was, I was glad to be in the audience for it. Originally scheduled for the indoor (or mostly indoor?) Altria Theater, this show — like the ill-fated Kansas City show last week — was moved at the last minute to an outdoor venue due to concerns over the rising Covid cases and out of concern for the safety of the bands and crews. The new venue turned out to be one of Richmond's most popular public park spaces that sits on an island along the James River. Basically, they split the audience into three general-admission sections based on what kind of ticket you had for the original show (though there were opportunities to upgrade, and chairs were allowed at designated areas). Given the lateness of the change, it all seemed to go remarkably smoothly. The setting actually kind of reminded me a little bit of Joe's Field at Mass MoCA with a bridge as a backdrop and railroad tracks running perpendicular to the stage — and the passing trains would certainly inject themselves into the show during Wilco's set, just as they have in the past at the Solid Sound Festival. As friend, local and old-school VCer GregRVA reminded me, this was just the fourth time Wilco had ever played in Richmond (the band did a club show back in 1995 preceded by a radio session, as well as a festival(?) in 1997 and a stop on the "Evening With..." tour at the National in 2010). That was kind of stunning to me. Accordingly, I wasn't quite prepared for all the audience love for Jeff and Co., particularly by younger folks at least some of whom, presumably, had never had a chance to see the band live before. This is where all of us cynical message board wonks have to try and see the show through someone else's eyes when we complain about setlist variety or whatever. For instance, the young woman next to me who was obviously a big fan got most visibly excited when the band started playing...wait for it...I'm The Man Who Loves You. What does she care that that's the most-played Wilco song ever? And throughout the show, especially near the front, there were very earnest, enthusiastic shouts of love for Jeff. Before Box Full Of Letters, for instance, Jeff joked that, "I would say this is for the old-timers, but let's face it, you're all old-timers." Then he caught a glimpse of some teenage-looking boys front and center and corrected himself a bit: "Ah well, that's not totally true. We got three new fans. I'm basking in your glow." A few songs before that, during If I Ever Was A Child, came maybe the coolest moment of the show when one train passed by on the aforementioned railroad tracks and then another heading the opposite direction also went by and even gave a little honk (or whatever it's called with trains) that led to a brief cheer from the crowd. After the song, Jeff was visibly moved putting his face in his hands — I imagine thoughts of his dad went through his mind — and after composing himself, he said, "That might be the most beautiful thing I've ever heard. Now I wish those wheels squeaking and whistles were on the record (during that song). That made me cry." Of course a song later, after another train passed by, Jeff couldn't help but poke fun at it hogging attention, quipping in part, "Stupid fucking train. You've had your moment." Ladies and gentlemen, classic Jeff Tweedy right there, conjuring memories of similar comments he made about a certain rainbow once during Solid Sound. Musically, even though the songs were for the most part the ones the band has been playing thus far on this tour, this to me was just one of those shows where it mattered less what was played than how it was played. Exhibit A: Impossible Germany. I've tended to be of the opinion that they shouldn't necessarily play it every single night just to keep it a bit fresh, but sometimes you do catch a bit of magic for whatever reason. Nels' creativity always amazes me, how he conjures something new nearly every time even with such a spotlight trained on him, but tonight his solo was one of the best I can remember for a long time. He just flowed, even more than usual, putting together a series of chord progressions that I thought was just right. Art Of Almost was brilliant yet again, and Born Alone and I'm Always In Love also had plenty of juice. And I haven't even mentioned the tour debut of Spiders (Kidsmoke) yet. It may or may not have been on the printed setlist, but clearly the guitar techs weren't expecting it as the encore got underway because Jeff came back out and stood there guitar-less for more than a few seconds with his cable and plug in his hand while the rest of the band started into the noise intro. Finally, Jeff went over to the side of the stage and got the guitar he needed and he and his bandmates started playing the song in earnest — and it was spectacular. Jeff even did both the clapping and the ba-ba-ba crowd singalong bits at the end. I like to think it was a little reward for an enthusiastic audience that had endured not only the extreme heat of the day but also the late venue change. I may have even lost my you know what a bit (though in fairness, the heat sort of made me lose my inhibitions more than I normally might. It was just too hot to worry about that kind of stuff, though I probably annoyed some folks around me. Sowwwwyyyy.) I mean, as evidence of the oppressive steambath that Richmond in August apparently is, how often can you remember Jeff wearing short sleeves on stage? He had on a short-sleeved blue Hawaiian-style shirt that apparently had some sort of fish on it (after someone in the crowd asked whether it was Colonel Sanders on the shirt, Jeff said he thought it was swordfish of some sort but then got corrected by someone that it was actually marlin, which caused him to say he was worried that "the audience has turned on me because I misidentified a fish.") Maybe you had to be there. But he did say earlier that he felt like "a wringer in a wet T-shirt contest" and noted that he almost never wears short sleeves on stage and yet he was sweating much more than he usually did, so "I'm going back to my winter coat." Whatever Jeff's attire, though, it was clear that he and his bandmates had forged a connection with a receptive and grateful, albeit very sweaty, audience. They ended up playing nearly 100 minutes, which is about 10 minutes longer than they've been able to at a few venues with hard curfews on this run. Here's hoping it won't be another decade-plus before the denizens of the River City get to enjoy another evening with Wilco (although maybe they can do it in a club with decent air conditioning next time? #JustSaying). Here was the complete Wilco setlist, as played (didn't get a look at the printed list, so can't say if there were any omissions or changes): A Shot In The Arm Random Name Generator Side With The Seeds One And A Half Stars I Am Trying To Break Your Heart> Art Of Almost If I Ever Was A Child Impossible Germany Love Is Everywhere (Beware) Box Full Of Letters Everyone Hides Born Alone Jesus, etc. Theologians Heavy Metal Drummer> I'm The Man Who Loves You I'm Always In Love --------------------------------------------- Spiders (Kidsmoke) California Stars And for those who care, here was Sleater-Kinney's setlist, as played: High In The Grass Hurry On Home Price Tag Down The Line Jumpers Shadow Town Can I Go On Tomorrow's Grave A New Wave Complex Female Characters Bring Mercy Modern Girl Worry With You The Fox One Beat> Entertain 3 Quote Link to post Share on other sites
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