bböp Posted October 6, 2021 Share Posted October 6, 2021 What's that saying...you can never go home again? Well, despite what we may have experienced during the pandemic when livestreaming and Zooming allowed us to bend the known rules of time and space and, for example, be in more than one place at the same time, you can probably never fully go back in time again either. With this postponed/rescheduled/reconfigured run of West Coast Wilco shows kicking off almost exactly two years after the release of the band's most recent studio record, Ode To Joy, there has been some thought that Jeff and his bandmates would basically go back to the show they were putting on back then. Even the band's social-media messaging has been including these dates, both in name and imagery, as part of the "Ode To Joy" tour. On the first of two nights in Portland, there was certainly some sense of that — but not entirely. Visually, things were pretty reminiscent of those pre-pandemic shows. From the big video screen behind the band displaying various abstract images — including the "soap suds" Wilco short film that is shown when the band goes off stage following the main set — to Glenn's drum head with a sort of faded grid design, the stage setup seemed similar to how it was back in March 2020 when the band got three shows into this tour before shelving it. On a personal note, I remember flying home to Chicago for one day following the band's final pre-lockdown gig in Winnipeg and getting ready to trek out to Portland the following morning en route to a few of the Western shows and being advised that night not to go — that the band was postponing the rest of its tour — and what a surreal time that all was. As Jeff has pointed out a number of times since the band has returned to the stage this year — and did so again tonight — OTJ came out "right before all the joy." Tonight he added, with a deadpan, "Things changed a bit. I like to think this record changed the world." That might have been true, but on this first night at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, only three songs from OTJ made the setlist — and two of them are ones that the band has played at, I'm pretty sure, every show since resuming live shows a couple of months ago. So from that perspective, this didn't really feel like the true OTJ experience (no Bright Leaves>Before Us opening two-fer, for example, or Hold Me Anyway near the end of the main set). It was more like where the band is right now, combined with where it had been, so we'll see whether Night 2 at the Schnitz brings more of those OTJ vibes or if some of those songs — We Were Lucky, An Empty Corner — are permanently banished to the Deep Cut Dimension. Then again, I'm sure most attendees tonight didn't really care about whether the focus was on OTJ or not. They were probably just glad to be seeing Wilco and the Young Fresh Fellows (who, by the way, put on a short, but energetic set of their garage-y rock) — or, frankly, any good band. I always have to remind myself that some people are still emerging from lockdown and venturing out to live performances and restaurants again for the first time in many moons. For those folks, this was just as solid a set as any Wilco show in recent years and featured all the songs a casual fan would probably hope to hear. Of note, Art Of Almost was its usual barnburner self though it's worth noting that would have almost certainly not have been played if this show had taken place when it was originally scheduled because the band had dropped it from its repertoire at that time. (In fact, I was told that there wasn't even an accompanying visual for that song from the earlier tour so one had to be cobbled together.) Meanwhile, our resident monomaniac, theashtraysays, got his beloved Bull Black Nova whilst in attendance, so all was good in the world there. And we also got "The End"-style introduction to Heavy Metal Drummer that had slowly been in development over the course of the Sleater-Kinney tour, though I think even Jeff was a little surprised when his bandmates started their vamp for that, saying half-bemusedly to them and/or himself, "Oh, we're gonna do this?" Jeff, for his part, said almost nothing for the first half of the set before checking in prior to Impossible Germany. "Is everyone having a good time?" he asked. I guess someone near the front must have asked in return if he was. "I'm having a great time," Jeff replied. "I just feel like playing; I don't really feel like talking." Of course, that didn't last. There were at least two funny visits to Banter Corner that I jotted down, the first coming before Jesus, etc., when Jeff spoke earnestly about his heart "swelling with pride" when he looked out and saw everyone doing what they had to do to take care of each other and help ensure that the band could keep doing what it loved to do. Jeff then encouraged people to feel free to sing along, but he noted that it would probably be best done with masks on "not because of the health restrictions, but because it sounds better." Another funny line came when Jeff shared a few songs after Hummingbird that he had meant to change the line in the song from the great southwest to the great northwest but forgot. "I flunked pandering at frontman school," Jeff quipped. There were some weird vibes between Jeff and some segments of the crowd that I didn't fully pick up on, but I'm pretty sure were there. Like when someone shouted out something about the sound being good, Jeff said, "Finally someone lets us know how it sounds. I've been wondering the whole time. ... I think each person should make an observation about an aspect (of the show)." And then as he was walking off stage following the main set, Jeff definitely had a few words with a person — or persons — sitting in the front row, who looked liked they might have done something that irked him. As I suggested at the start, it will be interesting to see how the show tonight changes — or doesn't — in terms of returning the focus at least somewhat to Ode To Joy. I don't expect an entirely different set or even a significantly different one, but I do wonder what the mindset will be as far as trying to recapture the past. Who knows? Since we're defying the laws of physics anyway, maybe we'll even zoom ahead to the future and hear a new song. One can always hope, right? Here was the complete setlist, as played, for Night 1 in Portland (there were no changes from the printed list): A Shot In The Arm Random Name Generator Side With The Seeds One And A Half Stars I Am Trying To Break Your Heart> Art Of Almost If I Ever Was A Child Via Chicago Bull Black Nova Love Is Everywhere (Beware) Impossible Germany Hummingbird Everyone Hides Box Full Of Letters Dawned On Me Jesus, etc. Theologians I'm The Man Who Loves You Heavy Metal Drummer I'm Always In Love -------------------------------------------- Ashes Of American Flags The Late Greats Outtasite (Outta Mind) 3 1 Quote Link to post Share on other sites
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