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Wilco — 21 August 2021, Forest Hills, NY (Forest Hills Stadium)

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Toward the end of Wilco's rain-shortened set tonight at Forest Hills Stadium, Jeff looked out from the stage at the torrents of rain falling on drenched audience members and told them he wished he and his bandmates could be physically closer to them. The problem was, Jeff explained, that when the band had initially been set up closer to the front of the covered stage, there was a hole in the roof just where he would have been standing and joked that would have been the perfect visual representation for his songs — that of a solitary figure standing there while rain fell on him.


In some ways, you could say that image should be on the front of a T-shirt or poster commemorating this entire "It's Time" tour with Sleater-Kinney and Nnamdi. The run of shows has seemingly been cursed from the start — from support act Nnamdi breaking his wrist and needing surgery just before the first show he was supposed to play to the rise of Covid cases around the country forcing last-minute venue changes and vaccine and mask mandates to extreme weather challenges that have forced cancellations and uncomfortable conditions.


And yet, thanks in large part to the legendary Wilcrew and other behind-the-scenes tour personnel, Wilco and the other acts have soldiered on as best they can. Tonight's New York City-area tour stop was no exception, with the effects of Hurricane (or Tropical Storm) Henri hitting the area about halfway through Sleater-Kinney's set and forcing officials to clear the 13,000-capacity stadium for the better part of an hour. Personally I was getting some serious Kansas City déja vu from the show there when Sleater-Kinney also was forced into an abbreviated set and then the venue was cleared before Wilco ultimately had to cancel its performance. I think many of us at the show tonight were probably at least partly preparing for the possibility of another backstage jam room Instagram live stream.


But that didn't happen this time. After a quick announcement, people trudged back into the stadium and shortly thereafter — voila! — Wilco took the stage. If there was any silver lining whatsoever to the stormy conditions, it came almost immediately when Jeff called Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker from Sleater-Kinney out on stage for the long-awaited first real collaboration between the two co-headliners — they had sort of performed together virtually on the aforementioned IG live stream — on A Shot In The Arm. Brownstein pretty much stuck to a couple of maracas and a little bit of backing vocals on the chorus, but if memory serves, I think Tucker might have even taken a turn on lead vocals for a verse with what looked like the help of a little cheat sheet for the lyrics. Anyway, I'm glad it finally happened — and, who knows, maybe we'll even get a reprise later this week.


As for the rest of the set, which actually went on for about an hour, the rain let up briefly for a few songs early on before returning in earnest during Impossible Germany and pretty much continuing for the duration. Jeff did his best to try and forge a connection with the water-logged audience, stepping out to the lip of the stage and turning the microphone outward during the singalong section of Hummingbird and checking in on more than one occasion, saying how honored he and his bandmates felt to be able to perform, especially for those who had decided to make this their first post-lockdown concert.


Probably Jeff's best visit to Banter Corner — other than his Charlie Brown raincloud bit that I mentioned at the top — came when Nels' Jerry Jones double-neck longhorn white guitar made an appearance in preparation for Dawned On Me. Jeff usually pokes fun at the garishness of the instrument in some way, but tonight he quipped, "That’s not the kind of guitar you see in the rain every day. Nels, if you stood out in the rain with that guitar, that would be the most Prince thing you’ve ever done." I couldn't help imagining an epic Purple Rain moment of some sort just then, but alas I don't think Nels has in him the sheer flamboyant, look-at-me-ness of the Artist Formerly Known As..., though he certainly has his own special charisma.


I also must mention that despite the adverse conditions, I thought the sound was pretty fantastic. I'm no audio expert, but to my ears, this has to be due at least in part to the quality of the PA system, right? I know Forest Hills Stadium was renovated for use as a concert venue and opened in 2013 and I've seen a couple other shows there (one of the Paul Simon "farewell" concerts, which coincidentally also took place in a monsoon, comes to mind), so I'm guessing that they didn't spare too much expense in installing a powerhouse sound setup. And with the outdoor-venue, greatest-hits set that Jeff and Co. are playing on this run, it definitely makes it more enjoyable — or at least more bearable — to hear some of the songs you hear all the time when they sound especially good.


Can't think of too much else to say about this one, but I'm probably forgetting something. Then again, I think I'm still drying off. Will this one go down as one of the best shows I've ever seen Wilco play? Probably not. Was it one of the most enjoyable from a comfort standpoint? Hardly. Will I remember it for a long time? Unquestionably. And I guess that's maybe all you can ask for from a good old-fashioned rock show that somehow went on amid hurricane-like conditions during a global pandemic.


Here was Wilco's complete setlist, as played (obviously this was an abridged set due to weather conditions, so there were probably at least one or two songs on the printed setlist that were omitted):

A Shot In The Arm (w/Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker on backing vocals and percussion)

Random Name Generator

At Least That's What You Said

Love Is Everywhere (Beware)

I Am Trying To Break Your Heart>

Art Of Almost

If I Ever Was A Child

Impossible Germany


Everyone Hides

Box Full Of Letters

Dawned On Me

Jesus, etc.


I'm The Man Who Loves You

Heavy Metal Drummer

I'm Always In Love


And Sleater-Kinney's abbreviated setlist, as played, for those who care:

High In The Grass

Hurry On Home

Price Tag

Down The Line


Shadow Town

Can I Go On

Path Of Wellness

A New Wave

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Thanks for the excellent report, bböp! My wife and I had tickets to this show but had to pass them along after the postponement. We were very sad to miss it, tough weather and all, so your dispatch eases the sting a bit. I've found Forest Hills to be a lovely summer venue with surprisingly good sound (as opposed to Merriweather Post, where I've always found the sound to be lackluster, despite my nostalgic attachment to the place as a native Marylander). Here's hoping for clearer skies ahead. 



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You summed it up perfectly as always, Paul.  Not one of my best shows by any means but one I’ll never forget.


Now Philly on the other hand.....Wowee Zowee....on so many levels.  I’ll let Paul have the honors on starting the recap.  #nevermissasundayshow

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1 hour ago, parisisstale said:

You summed it up perfectly as always, Paul.  Not one of my best shows by any means but one I’ll never forget.


Now Philly on the other hand.....Wowee Zowee....on so many levels.  I’ll let Paul have the honors on starting the recap.  #nevermissasundayshow

Thanks, but uh oh, it sounds like you might not entirely like what I have to say about Philly...:ninja

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On 8/23/2021 at 6:22 AM, bböp said:

Thanks, but uh oh, it sounds like you might not entirely like what I have to say about Philly...:ninja


Just now, parisisstale said:

After the shitshow that was Queens I was just ecstatic  to be completely dry at a dope venue, singing & dancing my ass off to two stellar bands.  


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