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Wilco — 18 September 2021, Welch, MN (Treasure Island Amphitheater)

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Has there ever been a great Wilco shed show? Or even a particularly memorable one? Asking for a friend... :innocent


For the purposes of this brief discussion/show recap, I'm excluding the shows on the AmericanaRama tour in 2013 because those were a different animal. And I'm not counting iconic outdoor venues like Red Rocks Amphitheater because, well, those are also kind of a unique case. But I'm just talking about your standard, run-of-the-mill shed, whether owned by Live Nation or some other corporate entity or just a makeshift giant outdoor space set up in the parking lot of a hotel and casino like tonight's situation about an hour southeast of downtown Minneapolis.


My question isn't necessarily a rhetorical one. I genuinely would be curious to know, because I'm racking my brain and I can't come up with one. I realize there are probably financial advantages for bands to try and play the largest venue they can possibly reasonably fill, at least sometimes, and certainly in these Covid times, outdoor venues have taken on a new role and importance as places where live music can safely happen for everyone — at least in theory (though no proof of vaccination or negative test was required at this show, nor were masks mandated). And of course there's also probably something to be said, as I remember Jeff commenting when Wilco started headlining larger arena-type venues roughly a decade ago, for having shows where everyone who wants to come see the band play can.


I was told by a local that the Treasure Island Amphitheater — set in the shadow of the Treasure Island Resort and Casino — is basically the shed-type venue for the Twin Cities. There are other outdoor field-type spaces, but as far as a place with some seating that can hold tens of thousands of people, this is it. And with that comes the usual challenges of traffic, lines, etc. With Wilco playing first, since it was a hometown show of sorts for co-headliners Trampled By Turtles, I barely got to my seat in time for the start of the band's set and I bet I wasn't the only one. (Incidentally, this wasn't even close to a sellout. I can't even imagine the scene at a completely packed show like the one Lizzo played there the previous weekend.)


Anyway, Wilco's 80-minute opening set was more or less the bare bones of what the band has been playing recently. The only real drama was whether the inevitable performance of California Stars with Trampled By Turtles was going to come at the end of Wilco's set or at the end of the show outright. (I'm pleased to report that thankfully it was the former, enabling a slightly early exit to avoid the worst of what surely would have been an annoying slog to escape the parking lot.)


Obviously I have no idea what must have been going through Jeff's head during a show like this, but between the problems with the connection to one of his acoustic guitars that actually caused him to stop I Am Trying To Break Your Heart mid-song and change guitars before starting the song over from the beginning to some slightly awkward audience interactions, I'm guessing it won't go down as the high point of the band's recent run of performances.


Let's just say that he seemed a bit distracted. There was some very subtle lyrical struggles that probably no one noticed. But the crowd interaction was definitely, um, a thing. For example, I couldn't hear it myself but someone toward the front must have been repeatedly yelling a request for a song from A.M. because Jeff first addressed it before Forget The Flowers by saying, relatively gently, "That probably isn't gonna get played tonight. I'm sorry, really sorry. Hey, we're gonna play this song." And then before the next song, Box Full Of Letters, he added, "Also, we're gonna play this song which is on the same record as the one you've been yelling, so that's pretty close." Apparently the requester yelled back that they would "take it" or something to that effect. "You'll take it?" Jeff shot back. "Well, you don't really have a choice." A bit earlier than that, Jeff must have seen a bunch of empty seats in the front row with one person sitting there, causing him to remark, "Hey, did you buy the whole front row? Pretty cool..." :flirt


It wasn't all awkwardness, though, despite the extreme rarity of Wilco actually playing an opening set. I was going to say that it felt almost like a festival, but even then, it feels like the band hasn't played a great many festivals recently where they were not one of the headlining (and thus, final) acts on a stage. In fact, I would have to go back and research to see the last time that actually happened. Jeff seemed almost chipper early on, announcing, "All right, how you doing? We're Wilco. Good to see you," and even going immediately into his back-to-back move with Nels during the breakdown of Random Name Generator, making for a sweet image if only for a few seconds. A bit later, during the guitar trouble with IATTBYH, Jeff tried to fill time while his techs worked on the issue and quipped, "So anyway, my boots are home," alluding to nearby Red Wing, Minn., home of the eponymous shoe company.


Other visits to Banter Corner included a variation on Jeff's usual joke about Ode To Joy. Introducing Everyone Hides, he said, "This is a song off our most recent record called Ode To Joy. It came out in 2019, right before all the joy." :unsure


Not long before the end of their set, Jeff remarked, "We've got a little bit more time, then you've got your Trampled By Turtles coming out to kick your ass. I mean that in a good way." And indeed, it wasn't even that long before the evening's headliners first emerged, to the delight of their local fans, for one final joint performance of California Stars on this mini three-show run. It was, as at the previous shows in Des Moines and Green Bay, a nice moment — perhaps even the highlight of the show for many people. But was it enough to overcome the sheer scale of a shed show where you feel like such a small speck in the vastness of it all? Maybe for some folks, for whom this is primarily how they experience live music (and I am honestly kind of sad for those people), but unfortunately I can't say that was personally the case. :pirate


Here was Wilco's complete setlist, as played (didn't see a printed setlist, so can't say if there were any changes/omissions):


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 (started and restarted)>

Art Of Almost

If I Ever Was A Child

Impossible Germany


Everyone Hides

Jesus, etc.

Forget The Flowers

Box Full Of Letters

Heavy Metal Drummer

I'm The Man Who Loves You

I'm Always In Love

California Stars (w/Trampled By Turtles full band on vocals, backing vocals and instruments)

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Regarding Bbops original question, rhetorical or not: Has there ever been a great Wilco shed show? Or even a particularly memorable one? Asking for a friend... :innocent


I answer yes, and as a matter of fact it was in the hometown of last night's headliners, Duluth Bayfront in 2007, set just a stone throw from Lake Superior. Granted their were some unique circumstances with that show. Originally it was supposed to be one of the leadoff shows on a tour through Western Canada and the Pacific Northwest but it was postponed just a day or 2 in advance because Nels had a case of the chicken pox. A show postponed by a virus, whodathunk? After Nels recovered, they picked up the tour a week late and tacked it on as a makeup date on the way back to Chicago.


Sept 4, you would think the weather should be decent, right? Well, I left the Twin Cities that day and the temp was in the 90s. Get to Duluth and the temp was 50 with a solid mist off of the lake, and it probably got to near 40 by the end of the show.


I was incredibly unprepared for the temp change, had to buy a Wilco hoodie for mere survival and luckily had a blanket in the trunk. In short they played an unbelievable show. Of the (now) 42 Wilco shows I have seen, mostly in the Twin Cities area, that one ranks easily in the Top 5 for me, probably #3. The band paid it back to the fans having endured the postponement and lousy weather. It was the first time I saw the songs from Sky Blue Sky presented live, so just think back on the first time hearing Impossible Germany.




Regarding last night, I went with a friend and this was the first time he had seen Wilco. It won't be his last. He was blown away by Impossible Germany, and even though it may be old hat also seems fresh to me 14 years later.


Other things to consider, when this show was announced originally scheduled for Sept 2020, it was going to be their 5th gig in the area within a 10 month span (St Paul x3, Nov '19 & Duluth, Mar '20). All the previous shows were in mid-size theaters. This was just going to be a bonus for Wilco fans. My gut was telling me that TBT was going to be the headliner as it was their photo on the TM eticket.


While the TI Amphitheater is not that great acoustically, I did think the sightlines were decent. Walking around during TBT, it actually might have sounded a little better on the GA lawn. Not a bad deal for what I think was $30. It did make me appreciate the show I saw a few weeks ago at Pritzker Pav, as that place just sounds acoustically rich. Having now seen them play on the shores of Lakes Superior and Michigan, maybe I will have to try to hunt down shows on Erie, Huron and Ontario.


I always enjoy the writeups. Thanks for sharing.

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