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Wilco — 24 August 2021, Boston, MA (Leader Bank Pavilion)


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When it came to what songs Wilco was going to play and how much its setlist would change as the band eased back into touring this month, it became pretty clear pretty quickly that the It's Time tour with Sleater-Kinney and Nnamdi wasn't going to be the second coming of the AmericanaRama run in 2013 when you had little idea what would happen night to night (well, that is, before Bob Dylan took the stage). With a 90-minute time slot most nights on this current tour, Jeff and his bandmates — to some people's chagrin — seem to have settled on a set that appeals to the lowest common denominator and plays well in big amphitheater-type settings.

 

That's not a criticism, at least from this observer, as much as a statement of fact. The only real mysteries for It's Time would be if and how often the two co-headliners would collaborate (yes, and not very often) and what covers, if any, might emerge from said collaboration. The deaths of Tom T. Hall and Don Everly over the past week might have offered opportunities for a tribute of some sort, but when that didn't happen, it seemed as if there just wouldn't be room for much beyond the standard fare.

 

But then came news of the passing of Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts, the heart of a band that has influenced so many musicians over the years, and there was a sneaking suspicion — at least on my part — that this unfortunate event might just be the catalyst for something unique to happen. And so it was that when the members of Wilco re-emerged for their encore (with Pat clutching a cowbell and a drumstick), they had Sleater-Kinney's Corin Tucker with them; together they combined on a fun and welcome version of Honky Tonk Women that suddenly made it a night to remember. "So sad," Jeff said, simply, after the song.

 

Can one song redeem an entire set? I'm not about to go there, although outside of Honky Tonk Women, the Wilco portion of the show was pretty standard tonight. Then again, I have to also remind myself that every night not only are there plenty of folks who are attending their first concert post-lockdown but there are also still people, amazingly, who are seeing Wilco for the first time. (Seriously, I met some Tweedy Show clients who were seeing the band for the first time! Which sort of blows my mind.) So given that, how can we be overly critical of something as minor as song selection? Are there some songs I wish I didn't have to hear for the 1,000th consecutive time? Of course. But do I understand why I'm hearing them and can I still enjoy them? Sure.

 

When you hear mostly the same songs every night for a run of shows, you start to pick up on the tiniest little things — or at least I do. So I'll mention one here that I've noticed of late, which is in Box Full Of Letters, Jeff has been kind of going back on forth on the line in the second verse about having a lot of your records. Sometimes he sings correctly, "Some things that I might like to hear/But I guess I'll give them back," but other times, like tonight, he clearly sings, "Some things that you might like to hear/But I guess I'll give them back," and you're like, 'Hey, wait a minute..." :lol Tonight, I also noticed that he accidentally sang the last "writing this letter to you" line in I'm The Man Who Loves You, which I audibly chuckled at (and people around me were probably thinking, 'What a weirdo.') And amusingly, the "The End"-style spoken-word prelude to Heavy Metal Drummer was back, which I suppose is also a benefit to playing the song so often that you just feel like messing with it sometimes.

 

Jeff's banter was pretty minimal, perhaps owing to another tight 11 p.m. curfew. It seemed like Wilco had barely played 10 songs when Jeff was already saying, "We're running out of time." His only significant comments were thanking people for singing along during Hummingbird and asking, as he does every night, how many people were at their first real concert back after lockdown and saying what an honor it was to be able to play for people experiencing that. [Edit: I forgot to mention that Jeff mentioned Nnamdi's pet lobster — Fred, was it? — that he keeps in his fanny pack, although I forget why. Anyway, I'm sure that about 95 percent of the people had no idea about that comment since they weren't there for the opening set.]

 

One other thing I keep meaning to mention in these little ramblings is that if people hadn't noticed already, and I guess you probably wouldn't unless you were super close to the front for each show, Glenn's drum head for this run basically features a thought bubble that changes every night. Some nights it's got a drawing on it; others, a phrase of some sort. Tonight, in another ode to Charlie Watts and referring to the first documentary about the Rolling Stones made in 1965 and 1966 that was never officially released until 2012, someone had written, "Charlie Is My Darling." :(

 

What else can I say about this show in Boston? Well, it was a return to the [insert sponsoring bank name here] Pavilion, for one. Is it possible that the band hasn't played there since 2007? Whoa. It's a perfectly decent shed-type venue run by Live Nation that is basically about 5,000 chairs set up on a concrete pavilion under a giant white circus-like tent set on Boston's harborfront. It's not a super-great acoustic venue or anything; I feel like the mix was never completely right, despite the fact I was sitting directly in front of one of the side speaker stacks about 15 rows back. But compared with some of the other sheds on this tour, at least it didn't feel ridiculously cavernous.

 

And I suppose, at least for now in these COVID times, we must commune with live music where we can, where it feels reasonably safe to do so. We're all making certain sacrifices — some more than others...shout out, Wilcrew — to come together and share this experience that, as Jeff and the ladies of Sleater-Kinney have been verbally reminding us each night, we have missed for so long.

 

Here was Wilco's complete setlist, as played (there were no changes/omissions from the printed list):

A Shot In The Arm

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

Hummingbird

Box Full Of Letters

Everyone Hides

Born Alone

Jesus, etc.

Theologians

I'm The Man Who Loves You

Heavy Metal Drummer

I'm Always In Love

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

Honky Tonk Women [The Rolling Stones] (w/Corin Tucker on backing vocals)

The Late Greats

California Stars

 

For those few of you following along, here was Sleater-Kinney's complete setlist, as played:

High In The Grass

Hurry On Home

A New Wave

Shadow Town

Jumpers

Price Tag

Path Of Wellness

Can I Go On

What's Mine Is Yours

Bring Mercy

Surface Envy

Tomorrow's Grave

Modern Girl

Reach Out

The Fox

Worry With You

One Beat>

Entertain

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4 hours ago, Albert Tatlock said:

An exceptionally well balanced and reasoned report. Also very nicely timed to coincide with my elevenses. Pleased for you that there was a special treat in the encore for some variety.

Ta.


Aww, Tatlock…so kind of you. And happy to give you some reading for your elevenses. :coffee

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First show of the tour and first post-COVID show other than Treehouse, which felt more like an event planned specifically for me for getting through the past year.

 

So it was joyous seeing them again for the first time in almost two years and there were numerous highlights, most notably the encore, but at a some point during the night (most likely in a moment that I was thoroughly enjoying), it hit me that bbop completely nailed his review of the Philly show.  It's all so subtle, but it came down to the people who I know where there seeing them for the first time. I kept thinking they'd were going to walk out saying, that is a great great band, but probably not saying that's the BEST band, which we've all seen many shows over the years that would've convinced them of that.  I think most of that was due to the 90 minute time constraint. Aside from limiting the setlist, he obviously was consciously trying to limit the banter.  I think back to the Warm/Warmer tour where, I couldn't imagine anyone loving the show no matter what they thought of the music, given how naturally funny he was throughout it. I wish the first-timers got to see some of that. 

 

I know there are a lot of factors that contributed to the setlist. I keep seeing "greatest hits" used, but not sure how accurate that is.  I think they were slanted to the noisier stuff because it would get more Sleater-Kinney fans to stick for the long-term than Don't Forget the Flowers or Hesitating Beauty, but more than that after sitting on his couch playing his acoustic guitars for a year and half, he's probably been looking forward to fully exercising the band as much as possible. 

 

Even though they were headlining, it did feel like you were seeing them in the middle of a festival line-up. Just a different vibe then seeing them in a tighter theater where everyone had to make an effort to get tickets to specifically see them, rather than a mixed audience of fans of another band and those just looking for a nice night out to see a band they kind of like. It got me thinking about the challenge Bruce Springsteen has about putting together a setlist trying to satisfy a crowd of casual fans, 70s Classic Rock fans, people that only know Born in the USA, people just going for "the event" in their town, and diehards that go 400 songs deep looking for that one they've never heard. He's gotten pretty good at it over the years, but when you play for 3-4 hours, you make it easier on yourself. 

 

I like that bbop is completely aware of this in his reviews and at least has some justification for wishing for a more diverse setlist being at so many shows. There was a guy on a Springsteen site who did some similar setlist/review updates for a NJ newspaper, even though he wasn't at most of the shows. It was 2 tours ago that he opened with a Sirius/XM Show at the Apollo Theater and added an "Apollo Medley" to the rest of the tour.  After the Paris show he commented in his article that HE was getting tired of it and thought it was time to drop it...despite the fact that the 70,000 people at the next show didn't get to hear it yet. A low point in setlist watching...so appreciate that bbop keeps adding his caveats.

 

 

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9 hours ago, bböp said:

What else can I say about this show in Boston? Well, it was a return to the [insert sponsoring bank name here] Pavilion, for one. Is it possible that the band hasn't played there since 2007?

Yes! It’s pretty crazy, right? The NBA Draft was happening during that 2007 show and the Boston Celtics assembled the new Big 3 that night. It certainly feels so long ago, when you look at it through that lens.

 

I think the obvious reason for skipping  Boston in the summer is due to Solid Sound which I’m sure crossed your mind. I’m not complaining at all, as I feel extremely fortunate to be so close to Mass MoCa, but there definitely has been a lack of summertime Boston proper shows since Solid Sound came into the picture. 

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9 minutes ago, sinko25 said:

Not surprised you didn't love the sound. I think it's the worst sounding venue in the area, which is a shame, because it's a nice size/location and the alternative for many bands is Mansfield.

...and the beer is really reasonably priced. 

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14 minutes ago, js0004 said:

...and the beer is really reasonably priced. 

and the security is so laid back and friendly, and there's a place you can smoke without leaving the venue, and you can get back in easily!

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Nice writeup, Bbop!

 

I'll add that I found Jeff to be in an especially good mood. Venues like our Harbor Lights don't really lend themselves to intimate performances but it sorta felt like one in a surprising way. Maybe because I was up close, but I think that that feeling is largely due to the way Jeff was reacting to the crowd - through call and response or the little gestures he's known to do. (As an aside, I can't believe Jeff wore the denim jacket all night. I was sweating for him!)

 

Anyway, a fun first rock show back. A hat tip to S-K too. I enjoyed their set a lot more than I was expecting to. 

 

For now, my next Wilco show on the calendar is SSF. Hard to believe! 

 

 

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Couple of questions for those who have seen shows on this tour - How long has Nnamdi been playing and how efficient has the vaccination card checks been?  We have a dinner reservation at 4:30 (lol) on Saturday and am a little nervous about missing Nnamdi’s set.

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7 hours ago, Madcap said:

Couple of questions for those who have seen shows on this tour - How long has Nnamdi been playing and how efficient has the vaccination card checks been?  We have a dinner reservation at 4:30 (lol) on Saturday and am a little nervous about missing Nnamdi’s set.


Nnamdi’s set has been 30 minutes, give or take. He and his band start right on time or even a minute or three early, so I’d be there by 6 if you want to see them (and it’s definitely worth it, IMHO).

 

Re: the vax checks, it’s varied by venue. Some, like Philly, have seemed a little tighter than normal and other places (St. Louis, Boston) they didn’t even match my vax card and my ID. So as expected, it’s kind of a crapshoot. Who knows how thoroughly they’ll check in Chicago? But it has gone reasonably quickly, in terms of speed. Then again, I’m usually getting there on the early side so when the rush of people going in happens, it might slow down. Hope that helps a little.

 

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17 hours ago, sinko25 said:

Not surprised you didn't love the sound. I think it's the worst sounding venue in the area, which is a shame, because it's a nice size/location and the alternative for many bands is Mansfield.

once that MGM venue at Fenway opens, there'll be a ~4500 ppl capacity indoor option.

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16 hours ago, tinnitus photography said:

my review:
https://digboston.com/fotobom-wilco-and-sleater-kinney-at-leader-bank-pavilion/

photos are embedded in the review w/ a link but if you're just a visual person you can find the galleries here:
https://www.tinnitus-photography.com/concerts2021

 

Good writing, Tim! Enjoyed reading your take. It's interesting to write stuff on here versus for a more "general" audience. I find that it sometimes goes against my journalistic instinct a bit because I'm not explaining some things or assuming a certain level of knowledge.

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On 8/27/2021 at 1:41 PM, bböp said:

 

Good writing, Tim! Enjoyed reading your take. It's interesting to write stuff on here versus for a more "general" audience. I find that it sometimes goes against my journalistic instinct a bit because I'm not explaining some things or assuming a certain level of knowledge.

Thanks Paul!

I do find it a bit of a challenge to review shows of a band I've seen so many times and keep the review fresh.

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5 hours ago, tinnitus photography said:

Thanks Paul!

I do find it a bit of a challenge to review shows of a band I've seen so many times and keep the review fresh.


Oh, I can relate! :lol

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5 hours ago, tinnitus photography said:

a few orders of magnitude higher, even.

how many times have you seen them play, at least a few hundred at this point no?


People always ask, but I honestly don’t keep a count. Not really a stats guy that way, plus what do you count — just full-band Wilco, or Jeff solo or Tweedy band or ? Anyway, maybe I’ll do it when I write the book! :lol

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On 8/31/2021 at 9:27 PM, bböp said:


Oh, I can relate! :lol

 

That's why that frog was probably a god-send for you at that one show --- 'woo-hoo, finally something really unique to write about'...

 

I do appreciate your write-ups.

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On 9/1/2021 at 2:04 PM, bböp said:


People always ask, but I honestly don’t keep a count. Not really a stats guy that way, plus what do you count — just full-band Wilco, or Jeff solo or Tweedy band or ? Anyway, maybe I’ll do it when I write the book! :lol

not that this is anywhere complete but it does log a lot of the shows i've been to... kinda wish there more shows from the 90s added so i could have added them as well. i do add random setlists from time to time as i discover things online.

 

https://www.setlist.fm/concerts/tinnitus_photo

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On 9/2/2021 at 7:51 AM, calvino said:

 

That's why that frog was probably a god-send for you at that one show --- 'woo-hoo, finally something really unique to write about'...

 

I do appreciate your write-ups.

 

Thank you kindly, sir! Animal invasions, or other distractions, are always welcome as recap fodder in my book. ;)

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WARNING: More personal account than review. 

This was the first I've seen Wilco since Toronto in Oct. 2019 and what a welcome relief. Having seen Tweedy at MASS MoCA in July, I already had my jones fixed for live music in a large(r) venue  setting. The weather circumstances that July weekend shrunk the venue, but it was still the largest stage I'd seen in 21 months. 

Hailing from Western New York (Rochester), I found myself working in the Boston area the same day that Wilco would be playing in town. It was also my birthday and, although I'm quite old enough to be over the fact that I was away from home and working a 13hr day on my b-day, it was when I saw the news that Charlie Watts died that really got to me.

Getting to the pavilion after NNAMDI and SK had finished was a bit of a bummer but again, after a long day and feeling melancholy about Charlie passing, I was just happy to be seeing a Wilco show. 

Glenn writing Charlie Is My Darling on his kick was very sweet and I thought to myself "There's the tribute. How fitting, because what would you play to salute the drummer?" and left it at that.  Well, after the show ended (which I thought was great and will leave the actual critical reviews to others) and they came back out with Corin Tucker, I wondered what was up.

When Pat started kloncking the cow bell, my head exploded. Of course! And they proceeded to become the headiest bar band across the nation, knocking out Honky Tonk Woman. 

Once again, Wilco playing music that includes and connects everyone, during the right and specific moment, to make people feel better and ultimately acknowledge a shared feeling, comes through and works. What a great, fleeting night.

 

Bonus was going to Artpark and seeing SK (crushed it. Missed NNAMDI again, but have hopes for SSF) and having a comfortable spot pretty close throughout, with my 5'7" wife having a great view for once. Artpark handled the Front of Stage sales very well.

Btw, why aren't we talking more about Tweedy's Morrison impression to open HMD? He performed the full on "mic stand lean" that night. I'd love to know the joke/story that prompted that creation.

 

Quick thoughts....opening w/ A Shot In The Arm?! To quote KRS-1 at the end of Intergalactic "I'm TELLIN you!"

They're very loose, tight and in such a groove with one another (like they're ever not?)

Pat is all over everything

The Nels love is heavy

The setlist is abbreviated but hits all the right notes (One Wing in Lewiston, which thrilled my wife)

 

That's all. Here's to an album announcement for the spring!

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