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Wilco — 28 August 2021, Chicago, IL (Jay Pritzker Pavilion)

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Well I guess, for the most part, all's well that ends well for the It's Time tour. All bands get to play their full sets, unencumbered by the weather? Check. One more on-stage collaboration between co-headliners Wilco and Sleater-Kinney? Check. Wilco not feeling like it had to play all the hits every single night? Check. Jeff finally taking a page from Carrie Brownstein and inviting fans up to the front to provide the show with a jolt of energy? Check.


Since the show was being live-streamed again, most of the people who would care enough to read this can probably judge for themselves and don't need my ramblings (though someone told me that the stream didn't have the crowd noise in the mix at all, which is kind of weird). But anyway, if you want to know my opinion, then read on...


I'm sure I've discussed and debated the fallacy of the hometown show both here and in private conversations in the past. Basically, this is the idea that we should expect something extra special when a band plays a show in its hometown. This usually happens when a lot of folks from out of town travel to said hometown for one or more shows under the premise that "I need to see [insert band here] on their home turf," and something amazing will ensue. Sometimes it does, but it can't always be truly spectacular, right? As far as Chicago shows by Wilco go, I'd place this Jay Pritzker Pavilion one squarely in the middle.


The Pritzker is a beautiful, picturesque venue right in downtown Chicago and has a really good sound system, so I totally understand why Wilco would conclude a summer tour of amphitheater-type venues there. Then again, I know a lot of people feel like it's not the greatest venue for a capital-R rock concert, especially if you don't have a seat within the first 20 or so rows (and even then, you can have litchurally one of the tallest people in the joint come in just before Wilco starts, leave before the band is done and, in between, affect your view of the proceedings the way the moon blocks out the sun during an eclipse, but I digress). Also, in my experience, it attracts a lot of people who maybe aren't the most dedicated music fans the same way a place like the Chicago Theatre does. Maybe that's just inevitable when you get to venues that size, that a greater proportion of the audience is made up of more casual types, but I know that's also annoyed some people I've talked to over the years.


Certainly you couldn't describe as casual the relatively small but dedicated bunch of Sleater-Kinney fans who gladly took up Brownstein's suggestion early in that band's set that they should come stand down front and fill the empty space between the stage and the front row of seats and part of the aisles. It's something she has done at many of the relatively soulless, seated, shed-type venues on this tour and results in what I've come to call "the Sleater-Kinney surge" every night. It's a pretty punk rock move that clearly some of the venue's security guards haven't been entirely prepared for (and probably aren't all that thrilled with). But there's no doubt that it gives the S-K set a certain amount of energy that would otherwise be lacking, and it's hard not to admire at least a little bit.


Unfortunately, what typically happens is after the Sleater-Kinney surge is that the security staff and venue personnel are more aware that something like that could happen and so by the time Wilco's set comes around, it's back to keeping the aisles clear and enforcing everyone's seats all that and so Wilco ends up feeling kind of like the fuddy-duddy old elder statesmen/dad rockers. Fortunately at the Pritzker show Jeff finally took a page from his friend's book and invited anyone who wanted to come down front for the show-closing Outtasite (Outta Mind). That's sort of when the Wilco set finally felt like the rock show we all know and love (well, most of us know and love, I guess).


"Oh man, we missed you," Jeff told the audience relatively early on, gesturing toward the both the gathered masses, the stage and Nels Cline following the fiery freakout at the end of Art Of Almost, and he could have been speaking about any number of moments throughout the show. "We missed this. We missed that."


As for the set itself, it was nice to get a reprise of the sporadic Wilco/S-K collaborations we've gotten on this tour. It hasn't happened as often as I may have thought, but at least we got to see Jeff and his bandmates with Brownstein and Corin Tucker one more time for the set-opening A Shot In The Arm. That's obviously the most fitting song for the two acts to join forces on, since that's the song Sleater-Kinney covered for the tour-only split single, but since it's the first song of Wilco's set, it is a slightly awkward moment when the two women leave the stage because there's no time for sentimentalities, or even Jeff to say directly to them that it's been nice to tour together or whatever. Tonight, for instance, you looked up after the song and both were already gone and the Wilco set continued apace.


Inevitably with the 90-minute slot and a hard 10 p.m. curfew, time was going to become an issue and once again, it always feels to me like just when Wilco start to get warmed up, we reach that part of the set that starts the inevitable conclusion with Jesus, etc., Theologians, I'm The Man Who Loves You and Heavy Metal Drummer and then it's basically time for one or two quick encore songs and then the show is over. At least the band got out of its usual lane somewhat by swapping out I Am Trying To Break Your Heart for Via Chicago early on and not feeling compelled to conclude with California Stars (though perhaps that was more a function of the ticking clock than anything else).


"We're running out of time," Jeff said to the predictable dismay of the audience with about 15 minutes to go before the curfew. "We live here. We'll be back."


Banter Corner was a bit more fruitful than it has been at other points on the tour, so perhaps that accounted for some of the rush at the end as well. At one point, in effusively thanking the crews and support staff who have helped keep the tour going despite all of its challenges, he mentioned how his amp "blew up at 2 p.m. today" and got fixed in time for the show that night — though were you thinking, like I was, that he probably had 10 more amps like it at The Loft? — and jokingly said that if anyone had an amp that needed fixing, they could leave it at the foot of the stage. Jeff also had a pretty funny bit about the audience electing a spokesman, on account of some guy up front with a loud, projecting voice that kept yelling things, and how he felt like every audience should elect a spokesperson. And there was an interesting little tidbit about how he wrote Born Alone because his mother had told him "we're born alone and we die alone" and he wanted to remind himself that she was wrong.


Well, I've already gone on longer than I typically do so I'll wrap it up here. But I'm sure more than a few other folks on here were at the show and I hope at least some people will chime in. Was it a perfect show? My sources say no. Could I have done without the mugginess? Without a doubt. Did it feel like a tour finale? Reply hazy, try again. Was it nice to see Jeff and his bandmates back home? It is decidedly so.


Here was the complete Wilco setlist, as played (didn't get a look at the printed list, so can't say if there were changes/omissions):

A Shot In The Arm (with Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker on backing vocals)

Random Name Generator

At Least That's What You Said

Love Is Everywhere (Beware)

Via Chicago

Art Of Almost

If I Ever Was A Child

Impossible Germany


Box Full Of Letters

Everyone Hides

Born Alone

Jesus, etc.


I'm The Man Who Loves You

Heavy Metal Drummer

I'm Always In Love


The Late Greats

Outtasite (Outta Mind)


And for anyone who cares, here was the complete Sleater-Kinney setlist as played:

High In The Grass

Hurry On Home

Price Tag

Down The Line


Shadow Town

Can I Go On

What's Mine Is Yours

Path Of Wellness

A New Wave

Complex Female Characters

Surface Envy

Modern Girl

Bring Mercy

The Fox

Worry With You

One Beat (with Fred Armisen on tambourine)>


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It is now a little after 8 AM, and I just got back from the beer line. What did I miss?


Truthfully, agree with everything you said. Miss the spontaneity in their set list. Then again, loved the Doors/“The End” like vibe to Heavy Metal Drummer. I have been to nearly 50 + shows over the years, but this time I got way more goosebumps than in the previous ten shows or so. Part of it is missing live music; the other is reflecting on times when I first heard those songs and taking it all in at that particular moment. 


Good fun and well worth the wait.


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6 minutes ago, bcdoc said:

It is now a little after 8 AM, and I just got back from the beer line. Why did I miss?


I hadn’t been to the pritzker since the last time Wilco was there and I was stunned to see that they hadn’t remedied that issue at all.  I have no idea why they didn’t have all the tents open, just leaving money on the table.


Going into the show I didn’t think I would be bummed about a short Wilco set since we had SK as well, but damn 90 minutes went by super quick. Seeing them again at Summerfest and I’m guessing it’ll be the same thing there too. Hopefully they vary the set a little bit, but I’m not holding my breath.

They were also sold out of the OTJ b sides 7 inch when I got there a little before 6 which was a major bummer. Hopefully that shows up in the Wilcostore soon.


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Paul, thanks (as always) for the great recap.  I had tickets to the show, then sold them (to a fellow VCer) because the memorial service for my mother-in-law - she passed in December -  got scheduled for this past weekend in Boston.  Then the memorial service got canceled last week due to Delta *sigh*.  I hope all who attended had a great night.    

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Popping in as a dedicated @bböp reader to say thank you yet again for the wonderful reviews throughout the tour.


I thought I was going to sit this show out until I was lucky enough to have tickets come my way at the last moment (even though the torrential downpour in the afternoon knocked power out at my house and I left my wife and kid at home to deal with it while I gallivanted into the city to see a concert :lol) .


Fantastic show by the band. I loved the high-energy approach. When last seen at the Chicago Theatre, they were opening shows with Bright Leaves -> Before Us. Maybe they'll head back in that direction this fall, but I think the rocking openers were a good fit for the return-to-the-sheds summer shows. I'll echo what everyone has said that the 90-minute set felt really short (by our standards anyway) but the band really packed every minute of time with as much power as possible. I was really happy to see "Art of Almost" back in the setlists this tour, as it's one of my favorites and i missed it in 2019, and it blew my socks off as usual.


There's always a little hope for "something special" at a Chicago show, but alas that wasn't in the cards this time around. Great to see to them back on the road though, and it'll be fun to follow the shows this fall to see what changes.


One other thing — that was my first time seeing S-K live and I have to say, Carrie is one badass rock star! I was really impressed.

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Hi all,

I just want to chime in and say that I too really appreciate bbop’s updates.  Thank you!

I really enjoyed the show and thought the set list was just right.  After such a long wait between live shows, some rocking ‘standards’ were just fine by me.  The group I was with all seemed to feel the same. 

I also thought Sleater-Kinney was great.  I’d never seen them before.  My daughter pulled me up to the front of the stage where we watched their whole set which really added to the fun.

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I really enjoyed the show. First one for me in five years. Kinda used to longer sets and shorter beer lines! But definitely not complaining. Finally made it home to New Orleans after numerous flight cancellations and renting a car to make the drive.Felt like I was in one of those beer lines again.

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