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Wilco — 6 October 2021, Portland, OR (Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall) [Night 2 of 2]


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About halfway through Wilco's second show in as many nights at the venerable Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, a gentleman in the front row voiced his opinion that the band was "really bringing your 'A' game tonight." In response, Jeff shared the comment with the rest of the audience and poked a little fun at the commenter by saying that the guy had also been at the show the previous night so Jeff wasn't exactly sure what he was saying about that performance. "Let's get through (tonight's show and) just do this together," Jeff added. "Let's not judge."

 

OK, I'm not gonna judge...but...well...tonight's show basically reinforced the old adage about the second night of a two-night stand always being better than the first. (Unless, I guess, you were the lady who shouted late in the set that she really wanted to hear Heavy Metal Drummer, only to be met with a somewhat sour expression on Jeff's face.)

 

I mean, objectively speaking, you could make the argument that for a show that's part of a run being called "Ode To Joy tour" — see previous night's recap — the band once again didn't perform much of the material that makes up the heart of that record, at least not the way it had during its initial touring in support of it. But I think that quibble is easily (and happily) ignored when Jeff and his bandmates break out more than a few songs they hadn't performed — not just on the first night in Portland or since returning to the live stage in August but since before the pandemic.

 

"We're trying to play as many different songs as we can (from the previous night)," Jeff explained early on, with a somewhat grudging expression. "It won't be as good, but it'll be different."

 

Again, I'm not judging but...if you know, you know. The return of Poor Places, I suppose, had to be the biggest single surprise, having not been played live by the full band since the last Solid Sound Festival in 2019 and, before that, not since the previous Solid Sound in 2017. For whatever reason, it returned tonight and — especially when paired with its natural partner in Reservations — made for a gorgeous end to the main set. I could be mistaken, but I don't think Nels played his lap steel at all on Poor Places tonight, which is kind of a different wrinkle since I'm reasonably certain that he used to start the song on lap steel and then change to his Jazzmaster midway through. And we were noticing also that Jeff played a 12-string acoustic guitar on Reservations, which I can't remember him doing before.

 

Really though, there was just an embarrassment of riches for someone who has grown kind of accustomed to the set the band has been playing most of the time since resuming live performances. In fact, after the repeat opening 1-2 punch of A Shot In The Arm and Random Name Generator, I was kind of mentally preparing for a minimally varied program but I couldn't have been happier to be wrong about that. It's just so good to hear songs that don't get played as often anymore like Muzzle Of Bees or Shouldn't Be Ashamed again. Laminated Cat, meanwhile, was fierce, really epitomizing in my mind the true potential of what this lineup of the band can do. And Misunderstood was unexpected but life-affirming, reminding us about the power of coming together through live music.

 

Before I go any further, I would be remiss if I didn't mention Nels' (and Jeff's) guitar work throughout. Maybe it's just where my seat was, but the sound of the guitars was just on point from the start and in song after song, the shredding was real — from At Least That's What You Said to Impossible Germany to Born Alone. I thought Nels' solo on IG was one of the best I can remember him playing (and I've heard a lot). Even Jeff seemed to be admiring it, watching with a smile on his face while playing his rhythm part. I can't really explain why, but even though Nels is improvising that part each night, some nights it just seems like he has a clearer idea of what he wants to do and gets into the proverbial zone.

 

As for Banter Corner, the only noteworthy visit I haven't already mentioned came relatively early on when someone thanked Jeff for coming back, using those exact words. "We had to come back," Jeff replied. "We were contractually obligated to play here again tonight. Oh...you meant thanks for coming back from before the pandemic." Otherwise, Jeff pretty much just had little tidbits that he shared about certain songs, like mentioning my favorite nugget about I Must Be High (the opening drum pattern matching the phrase, "Hey you, what's for lunch?") or noting that they hadn't played Shouldn't Be Ashamed in a long time but almost certainly had at the late, great Portland venue Berbati's Pan because "we didn't have that many fucking songs."

 

The Schnitz, as the locals call it, is a 2,800-capacity seated theater that is a far cry from Berbati's Pan, but I think Wilco for at least one night made it feel as close to a small club as it possibly could (or maybe my seat was just a lot better than I anticipated). Closing the show which, at 104 minutes, actually clocked in 10 minutes shorter than the first night, with the Being There two-fer of I Got You (At The End Of The Century) and Outtasite (Outta Mind) only served to reinforce that club-like energy. And though Jeff ended the show with an apology of sorts for messing up something in Outtasite, telling the crowd, “I owe ya one,” it seemed like most were too busy absorbing the last few minutes of a blissful evening to even notice. I know I was.

 

(And just for the record, I'm not judging...but if I was, I'd probably give at least a 9.0. I promise not to come back in 10 or 15 years and revise my score, Pitchfork-style.)

 

Here was the complete setlist, as played, for Night 2 (An Empty Corner was listed as the first song of the encore on the printed list, but wasn't played):

 

A Shot In The Arm

Random Name Generator

At Least That's What You Said

White Wooden Cross

War On War

Muzzle Of Bees

If I Ever Was A Child

Laminated Cat (aka Not For The Season)

Love Is Everywhere (Beware)

Impossible Germany

Forget The Flowers

I Must Be High

Everyone Hides

Born Alone

Misunderstood

Jesus, etc.

Shouldn't Be Ashamed

California Stars

Poor Places>
Reservations

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

I Got You (At The End Of The Century)>

Outtasite (Outta Mind)

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Happy to trade in the Nova for this set last night.  May all shows be night 2 shows.  :rock

(Though I suppose we could say we did indeed get a NovaCat, just with a 24 hour intermission!)

 

And I continue to be enthralled with the Young Fresh Fellows.  Scott thanked Wilco for being so supportive of up-and-coming bands like themselves, later saying that they were more likely on the "legacy" list along with folks like Nick Lowe, Richard Thompson, and a couple others.  He was having a ball.  Well, they all were.  Kurt stepped to the lip of the stage ripping solo's a time or two, despite having nobody at the light controls to give him a spotlight.  I don't recall all the setlist, but R&R Pest Control and Backroom of the Bar were definitely highlights.  I swear Scott has the best smile in rock and roll. 

 

2 hours ago, Lukestar said:

How about Westerberg's wedding band? How were the old Young Fresh Fellows?

Two words: Taco Wagon.  (and see above)

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On 10/7/2021 at 8:51 AM, theashtraysays said:

Happy to trade in the Nova for this set last night.  May all shows be night 2 shows.  :rock

(Though I suppose we could say we did indeed get a NovaCat, just with a 24 hour intermission!)

 

And I continue to be enthralled with the Young Fresh Fellows.  Scott thanked Wilco for being so supportive of up-and-coming bands like themselves, later saying that they were more likely on the "legacy" list along with folks like Nick Lowe, Richard Thompson, and a couple others.  He was having a ball.  Well, they all were.  Kurt stepped to the lip of the stage ripping solo's a time or two, despite having nobody at the light controls to give him a spotlight.  I don't recall all the setlist, but R&R Pest Control and Backroom of the Bar were definitely highlights.  I swear Scott has the best smile in rock and roll. 

 

Two words: Taco Wagon.  (and see above)

 

Yeah, really fun opening set by the Fellows. Thought they were much more comfortable tonight and just having a blast. Their energy was definitely infectious, even if only a small fraction of the room was filled.

 

Here was the complete YFF setlist from tonight, for those interested:

 

No One Really Knows

Taco Wagon

Picture Book [The Kinks]

Sittin' On A Pitchfork

Lamp Industries

Becky Doll

Gear Summer 2013

The Teen Thing

Back Room Of The Bar

Rock 'N' Roll Pest Control

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21 hours ago, bböp said:

 

Yeah, really fun opening set by the Fellows. Thought they were much more comfortable tonight and just having a blast. Their energy was definitely infectious, even if only a small fraction of the room was filled.

 

Here was the complete YFF setlist from tonight, for those interested:

 

No One Really Knows

Taco Wagon

Picture Book [The Kinks]

Sittin' On A Pitchfork

Lamp Industries

Becky Doll

Gear Summer 2013

???-Inside A Bank

Back Room Of The Bar

Rock 'N' Roll Pest Control

Thanks, bböp! Such a great opener. One of those "no-brainer"s.

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