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Wilco — 22 August 2021, Philadelphia, PA (Mann Center For The Performing Arts)


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OK, who had show 13 (of 17 on this It's Time tour with Nnamdi and Sleater-Kinney) in the "professional show" pool? I kid, I kid...well, sort of. B)

 

The truth is it's hard for me to write something about a show like this that I feel accurately represents anyone else's experience but my own. I guess you could say that's true for any given show, but especially for this one, I'm struggling to reconcile my opinion with all of the "Great show!" and "Unbelievable!" comments I overheard on the way out or the friend I talked to who said it was his wife's first real show since the onset of the pandemic and she just wanted to hear the hits for the most part. If this was your first show back, or if you hadn't seen Wilco in a long time, or if you just appreciate a consistently solid performance by a band that is almost always consistently solid, then this was a perfect show for you.

 

In that case, please just disregard my dumb commentary and maybe let me take a mulligan. But I just thought that the ingredients were fairly ripe for a professional-type gig that I define as a show that the average attendee would think was perfectly fine — great, even — but that didn't really have anything particularly noteworthy about it. I mean, it was the band's fifth show in five days, playing mostly the same setlist; the type of venue that just doesn't really suit a barn-burner of a performance because it's hard to connect with folks beyond the first few rows; and an audience with more than a few people who probably liked Wilco just fine but were just as happy to enjoy a pleasant summer evening out or who would be just as likely to come to a show with My Morning Jacket...or...The Avett Brothers...or...Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit...or...The National...or...[insert your favorite WXPN act here].

 

And while we're on the subject, can I just take a brief moment to mention something that's sort of been gnawing at me? Which is why does Wilco feel like the fuddy-duddy band on this tour, especially when compared with Sleater-Kinney? I know it's like comparing apples and oranges in some sense, but both bands were formed in the exact same year (1994) and have been at this a long time and achieved a certain amount of success, but it still feels like Sleater-Kinney is your cool disaffected teenager while Wilco is like your slightly unhip uncle or something. Is it just the specific reputations/images each band has developed over the years, or the types of fanbases? Wilco is unquestionably a bigger band — which is why they are playing (slightly) longer and last every night on this tour despite it technically being a co-headlining situation — but Sleater-Kinney and their fans have arguably brought as much or more energy.

 

I mention all of that here because of what happened midway through during Sleater-Kinney's set when Carrie Brownstein basically invited a stage rush, asking the venue staff and security to allow those who wanted to come up front and dance to come into the pit area and into the aisles. That's not even the first time she has done that on this tour, but watching all those mostly younger folks stream down from their seats higher in the pavilion or from the lawn or wherever, I sort of got a little pang of jealousy like, 'Oh, that's a total punk rock move,' and 'That's what a rock show looks like.' Jeff has done that type of thing before, too — not on this tour — but I did wonder if the situations were reversed or if Wilco were essentially opening for a bigger band, would he do it? I just couldn't get past the feeling that maybe Wilco has become the stodgy old elder statesman while Sleater-Kinney are still like the scrappy underdogs — hence my fuddy-duddy comment.

 

At any rate, back to our regularly scheduled programming. In discussing Wilco and Sleater-Kinney, I should note that we did not get a repeat of their joint performance on A Shot In The Arm in Philadelphia as we did in New York the previous night. Which leads me to believe we might only see that once more on this run, possibly during the tour finale in Chicago later this week. It's not exactly the regular collab among tourmates, a la the AmericanaRama tour, that some of us were hoping for when this run got announced, but at least it happened the one time.

 

Wilco's set, aside from the tour debut of One Wing, was pretty much what we've come to expect for now and Jeff and his bandmates have pretty much fine-tuned the songs they seem to want to present on these dates. In some ways, as I suggested earlier, it's a set designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator of Wilco fans and one that generally sounds very good on the powerful sound systems of these shed-type venues they are playing. I mean, if you like electric guitar, how can you not like the shredding done by Jeff and Nels and Pat on songs like Art Of Almost, At Least That's What You Said and Born Alone, right?

 

If Jeff's banter was any indication, though, he probably could use a night off. We didn't get many visits to Banter Corner, with about the longest being to acknowledge that "this has been a wild tour, from broken wrists to hurricanes," and that all of the crews have "kicked so much ass." Earlier, before Everyone Hides, Jeff also took a moment to acknowledge the local crowd, "You've always been so good to us. What an amazing place. Thanks for inviting us. Here's another not-so-joyous song off Ode To Joy." Other comment by Jeff included half-jokingly admiring his own playing on I'm The Man Who Loves You: "That's the best solo I've ever played. Let's hear it for me!" And just before the main set-closing I'm Always In Love, he told the crowd, "We're running out of time," and of course got a reaction, including some boos. "Boo?" Jeff said, shrugging his shoulders in mock disgust. "Ok."

 

Other than that, the show pretty much went as you'd expect it to if you've been following along. We didn't get the spoken-word "The End"-style Heavy Metal Drummer, nor did we apparently get the planned show-closing California Stars (which was on the printed setlist, but wasn't played). So that's the report. Whether you thoroughly enjoyed it or thought it was lacking, remember I'm just one dummy among many, so take all these words with a grain of salt, as I would always hope you would.

 

Here was Wilco's complete setlist, as played (the only change from the printed list was the aforementioned omission of California Stars):

A Shot In The Arm

Random Name Generator

Before Us

One Wing

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

At Least That's What You Said

Jesus, etc.

Theologians

I'm The Man Who Loves You

Heavy Metal Drummer

I'm Always In Love

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

The Late Greats

Outtasite (Outta Mind)

 

And for the few here 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

What's Mine Is Yours

Can I Go On

Path Of Wellness

A New Wave

Complex Female Characters

Surface Envy

Modern Girl

Bring Mercy

The Fox

Worry With You

One Beat>

Entertain

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It's interesting that there are some grumblings over on the Sleater-Kinney FB fan page about how S-K has lost their edge, become "animatronic", not the same without Janet, etc... sound familiar? 

But I'm with you that the S-K faithful are a force to be reckoned with and one that we could use an infusion from.  In the three shows that I saw, there was an impromptu / uninvited but highly welcome stage rush from reserved seats halfway through the S-K set (Atlanta), a rabid group on the rail of S-K fans who out-sidewalked us Wilco regulars IN THE RAIN (Nashville), and a smaller but intense group of fans who gladly accepted invitations to move to the rail for S-K's set and then proceeded to lose their minds for an hour and charge up the entire place (Asheville).  Talk about a shot in the arm!!

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2 hours ago, theashtraysays said:

on the Sleater-Kinney FB fan page about how S-K has lost their edge, become "animatronic", not the same without Janet, etc...

 

Never been a SK fan and found them pretty animatronic at MPP.

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4 hours ago, theashtraysays said:

It's interesting that there are some grumblings over on the Sleater-Kinney FB fan page about how S-K has lost their edge, become "animatronic", not the same without Janet, etc... sound familiar? 

 

1 hour ago, nalafej said:

 

Never been a SK fan and found them pretty animatronic at MPP.


I actually had to look up “animatronic” to make sure it meant what I thought it meant. Like I said, I’m a dummy. But as far as S-K being robotic or robotlike puppets, I don’t see it. Maybe their band, like the dudes in particular, but not Carrie and Corin, IMHO.

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First concert since Wilco at brooklyn steel in October 2019.  I thought the vibe at the Mann was fun, felt great to be at a show. Felt empty for most of SK's set.  SK's music is not bad, but man when Corin starts hollering it is downright awful.  I thought Wilco put on a good show, even though it felt entirely predictable and the Mann sound is not the best. Good to see some live music for a change!

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6 hours ago, bböp said:

OK, who had show 13 in the "professional show" pool?...

 

I'm struggling to reconcile my opinion with all of the "Great show!" and "Unbelievable!" comments I overheard on the way out...

 

...disregard my dumb commentary and maybe let me take a mulligan. But I just thought that the ingredients were fairly ripe for a professional-type gig...

 

...why does Wilco feel like the fuddy-duddy band on this tour, especially when compared with Sleater-Kinney?

 

I just couldn't get past the feeling that maybe Wilco has become the stodgy old elder statesman...

 

Wilco's set was pretty much what we've come to expect for now...

 

...it's a set designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator of Wilco fans ...

 

Whether you thoroughly enjoyed it or thought it was lacking, remember I'm just one dummy among many, so take all these words with a grain of salt, as I would always hope you would.

 

 

 

Wilco fans reading this who were at the KC show 11 days ago, and didn't get to see their favorite band play even ONE song: :frusty

 

(I'm mostly joking. If I had the ability to see the guys for multiple shows, I'd likely quibble about some things as well.)

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14 minutes ago, Albert Tatlock said:

Ta.

 

Wonder if they'll be an Everly Brothers cover tonight? Maybe JT could harmonise with John?


No show tonight, first of all. And second, if they didn’t do a Tom T. Hall cover (or even acknowledge his passing), I don’t think there’s a good chance for the Everlys…though I’ve been proven wrong before!

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57 minutes ago, Passenger Sid said:

 

Wilco fans reading this who were at the KC show 11 days ago, and didn't get to see their favorite band play even ONE song: :frusty

 

(I'm mostly joking. If I had the ability to see the guys for multiple shows, I'd likely quibble about some things as well.)


We quibble because we love? 🤷‍♂️
 

Sorry about KC. I would have liked to have seen that one happen too, since I had a pretty nice spot! 

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It'll be interesting to see if Wilco goes back to playing differing setlists each night on future tours.

 

The  cynic in me might say they've been playing similar shows every night as a way to push people who want to hear the deep cuts to Solid Sound/SBS types of events.  

 

Realistically though, the rigid setlists are probably due to lack of full group rehearsal opportunities thanks to Covid, and their full repertoire is not as stage ready as it normally would be.    

 

I don't buy the argument some have made that they are being rigid just due to the time constraints of a co-headline tour.  There are tons of three and four minute songs that can be swapped in and out, leaving the set the same duration each night, and they can always cut a song or two if they're running up against a curfew. 

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13 hours ago, Rusty Shackleford said:

I wonder if part of it is about being easier on the crew.  This tour seems to be pretty rough on them, and maybe a static set list is easier to prep for?  I too hope they get more varied the next time out.

 

That's definitely possible.   It could be that fewer songs means less gear required, which means less cargo space needed on the trucks, faster setup and tear down/set changes, etc. All of that makes for a little less labor for the crew, and a cost savings.

 

I've seen Wilco tours where the amps, drums and keyboard setups are much larger.  I'd be curious to know if they went out with fewer guitars on this tour.  

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