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Wilco — 10 October 2021, Bellingham, WA (Mount Baker Theatre)


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In retrospect, it was probably a sign that this wouldn't be the most perfectly performed set Wilco has ever done when Jeff flubbed the first verse of How To Fight Loneliness about 30 minutes after taking the stage and had to take it from the top. Getting a little distracted happens over the span of a tour of course — especially after five shows in six days with an off day looming — and I'm certainly not one to cast aspersions on anyone, not when I've totally slacked on writing this recap due to enjoying the lovely weather and scenery in the Bellingham area.

 

But objectively speaking, there were probably a few moments during this show on which Jeff might take a mulligan if he could. (Or maybe he wouldn't, since nobody seemed to mind and some probably welcome the imperfections!) In any case, this final show of the trifecta of Pacific Northwest gigs that got added when this leg of the Ode To Joy tour got rescheduled/reconfigured was the band's first time playing in Bellingham, I believe, and once again drew a relatively enthusiastic crowd.

 

The Mount Baker Theatre is a historic 1920s venue with orchestra seating and a balcony set kind of far back from the stage that seats a total of 1,500 or so. I don't know if it was completely sold out, but at least on the pretty full main floor, most people seemed to be standing throughout — though I believe there was a certain resident monomaniac and front-row denizen who took a seat, ahem, during Jesus, etc. For his part Jeff acknowledged being in Bellingham, complimenting the audience on its looks and joking that he hadn't just said hello so that people would know that he knew where he was. A bit later, Jeff said, "We're so glad we're finally here. Thank you for holding onto those tickets and taking care of each other. Thank you so much." (Of course this show wasn't on the original 2020 schedule, so tickets didn't have to be held onto for all that long...but who's counting?)

 

Of note from a setlist perspective was the somewhat-surprising return to Ode To Joy opener Bright Leaves (though, interestingly, not its usual partner, Before Us). I wonder if that had anything to do with the return of that dark brown acoustic guitar with the rubber bridge that Jeff normally uses on One And A Half Stars but which had been missing until the show in Olympia on Saturday when it came back for that song; previously, Jeff had been using an electric guitar with Great Lakes stickers on that one. Anyway, Bright Leaves was another little reminder of OTJ and how this tour is technically supposed to be in support of that record, even if it hasn't necessarily been so far.

 

Additionally, I'm a big fan of the How To Fight Loneliness/Sunken Treasure/Laminated Cat trifecta that was repeated for the second night in a row and which sets a pretty high bar for the remainder of the set to live up to. I doubt many people in the room realized just how rarely Sunken Treasure has been performed live in recent years — this was just the third time since 2017 — but it has lost none of its vitality and hopefully it stays in the set for at least a little while longer. Laminated Cat, meanwhile, continues to be a great canvas for all of the band members to do their thing, with Glenn's percussion in particular reaching a new level.

 

Also for the second consecutive show, which I inexplicably forgot to mention in my discussion of the Olympia show, Jeff managed to successfully change the lyric in Hummingbird from "the great southwest" to some variant involving the northwest after forgetting to do so a couple times at the start of this run of shows like he had wanted. The previous night in Olympia, he went with "Pacific Northwest," while tonight he went with "the great northwest."

 

In the second half of the set, the shenanigans also started to happen. It started with Forget The Flowers, the ending of which Jeff had given Glenn grief for the previous night for being Green Acres-esque with its double beat. Apparently, they discussed it between that show and this one but still couldn't quite get it down ("The show was flawless up to that point," Jeff quipped.) Then Jeff started to briefly play a few notes from the classic TV series theme while messing around with the rare riff ending to Theologians, which may or may not have caused him to have a brain freeze at the start of the next song, California Stars. With his bandmates all looking to him to start the song, Jeff just sort of stood there for a bit until he realized that they were all waiting for him to begin playing. Jeff gave a sheepish smile and then looked around and joked, "I was just testing you guys. ... Oh banjo, I got it."

 

Banter Corner also got a little busier in the second half of the show. One visit came when Jeff reiterated that he knew wearing a mask during a rock concert was weird, but reminded people that "you've done weirder things" at shows and then shared that "I used to wear a mask at rock concerts, just for the fuck of it," but that instead of covering his nose and mouth, he used the mask he wore to cover his eyes. I don't know about you, but I'd like to hear more about that! There was also kind of a funny interaction after Dawned On Me spurred by an audience member who expressed his opinion about the performance of that song being "really great." Jeff picked up on that, joking "that's the kind of approval we've been waiting for from all of you. Why are the rest of you so withholding?"

 

Jeff's sense of humor may or may not have been lost on most of the crowd, but what is good to see is that there's still a lot of amity between the guys in the band. You don't always see that with a group that's been together as long as this one has, but it's clear that everyone still enjoys playing and performing together so much. Even when there are a few hiccups in a given show, like another small lyrical flub in the encore during Heavy Metal Drummer, there are smiles all around. What else is there, after all, if you can't laugh at yourself a little and have fun doing something with good friends?

 

Here was the complete setlist, as played in Bellingham (didn't see a printed setlist, so can't say if there were any changes/omissions but it seemed like there was a song cut at the start of the encore):

 

Bright Leaves

A Shot In The Arm

Random Name Generator

At Least That's What You Said

One And A Half Stars

I Am Trying To Break Your Heart>

Art Of Almost

How To Fight Loneliness

Sunken Treasure

Laminated Cat (aka Not For The Season)

If I Ever Was A Child

Impossible Germany

Love Is Everywhere (Beware)

Forget The Flowers [*edit: corrected!]

Hummingbird

Everyone Hides

Dawned On Me

Jesus, etc.

Theologians

California Stars

Poor Places>

Reservations

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

The Late Greats

Heavy Metal Drummer>

I'm The Man Who Loves You

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10 minutes ago, bböp said:

Thread parking once more whilst eyes are shut for a bit (attention Tatlock, nothing to see here)...

. . .

Forger The Flowers

 

Nothing to see? Nothing to see? Only Bbop in rare setlist slip-up horror!

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7 hours ago, Albert Tatlock said:

 

 

Nothing to see? Nothing to see? Only Bbop in rare setlist slip-up horror!

 

You bastard...you scared me that there was actually a screw-up! But actually that "gaffe" actually fits in perfectly with this show! :lol

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20 hours ago, bböp said:

 — though I believe there was a certain resident monomaniac and front-row denizen who took a seat, ahem, during Jesus, etc.

ahem, I believe that you failed to mention that said monomaniacal denizen was one of only two attendees standing throughout the YFF set. Can't believe the lack of love for any Scott band up here.  Maybe Seattle will be better.  And I figure if Nels gets to sit down, then so do I.  We're practically the same age after all. 

 

Fun show for sure.  Once again we had a particularly large unused portion of the stage (10-12') in front of the band and ahead of the front row which made the band seem tucked away from those of us up front.  The sound was very good up front, even without any audience-facing small speakers on the lip of the stage, though the vocals were a tad light as compared to the night before (which did have the lip speakers).

Jeff skipped the Doors-esque spoken intro to Heavy Metal Drummer, as clearly they were pressed for time there in the encore.  We also got the Green Acres ending from Glenn at the end of Forger the Flowers, and then another one at the end of another song (which I can't recall - remember, advanced age) and I think Jeff even joined in for those 7 little notes on that one.  Still not getting the back-to-back Nels/Jeff guitar riffs during Random Name Generator... they may have shelved that particular rock move.  Bummer.  But still lots of eye-to-eye smiles during that little riff section between the two.  And Jeff continues with his "Whaaaatt?" and "Huhhhh?" interaction with the techs which gets a big chuckle out of Glenn. 

Laminated Cat is indeed a jam session that morphs night after night and just sears the ears of everyone in the room.  I think John's bass line on that one is the underpinning for everyone to just let loose, and loose they do let.  Stan clearly nudges up the sliders on that one on the control board - it does get loud but in a very good way. 

Couple other little nuggets that I noticed - Nels didn't start off Dawned on Me with his usual skronky spring noises; Jeff said something like "I'll start this one like we talked about" and then did just that.  No idea why.  And when they brought out Pat's banjo for CaliStars, everyone just paused for a bit waiting on Jeff to start, including Jeff.  After an awkward few (several?) seconds Jeff quipped "oh yeah, I start this one.  Just testing you guys" before strumming his way into the song. 

Speaking of monomaniacal (were we?) I totally need to up my game on signage.  Four nights in a row now we got LammyCat in that spot where the Nova usually parks, which only came out in night 1 of Portland.  Nothing wrong with LammyCat of course, but the return of NovaCat would be a rather nice compromise.

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5 hours ago, theashtraysays said:

ahem, I believe that you failed to mention that said monomaniacal denizen was one of only two attendees standing throughout the YFF set. Can't believe the lack of love for any Scott band up here.  Maybe Seattle will be better.  And I figure if Nels gets to sit down, then so do I.  We're practically the same age after all. 

 

Good point. I did admire you and your fellow front-rower for being on your feet throughout for another fun set by the Fellows. One of these days you deserve to get the YFF Book Club selection, right? Those surely are books worth reading...

 

Anyway, I admire how they've really changed around their opening sets each night and played a number of different songs from their (vast) catalog. It is weird how relatively few people seem to be really enthusiastic for Scott McCaughey's various projects in these parts, though I know there are plenty of fans. Maybe it's just that not very many of those among the advanced age club that you mentioned can summon their youthful energy for an opening act? :pirate

 

Here was the complete YFF setlist as played for Bellingham, fwiw:

 

Taco Wagon

Searchin' U.S.A.

99 Girls

Becky Doll

Never Had It So Bad

Hillbilly Drummer Girl

If You Believe In Cleveland

Teenage Dogs In Trouble

Topsy Turvy Theme

 

5 hours ago, theashtraysays said:

We also got the Green Acres ending from Glenn at the end of Forger the Flowers,

 

You had to go there, didn’t you? Ah well, I guess I deserved it for being cheeky earlier. My apologies, and I hope you get your NovaCat in Seattle.

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21 hours ago, Albert Tatlock said:

Yeah - I feel bad for doubting Bbop. I'm sure he meant this as some kind of performance art piece Wilco are working on.-

 

 

 

Amazing! I think the Young Fresh Fellows (or Scott McCaughey, I guess) should immediately write a song called "How To Forge A $65 Tulip." :rock

 

On 10/11/2021 at 1:32 AM, Albert Tatlock said:

Nothing to see? Nothing to see? Only Bbop in rare setlist slip-up horror!

 

Actually, I've just noticed that no less an authority than Wilcoworld have made an actual setlist slip-up for this show. GASP! They have listed Far, Far Away instead of Sunken Treasure in that spot. I wonder if that was on the printed setlist, or just an innocent mistake from the drop-down menu of songs or something else. At any rate, I shall attempt to notify the proper authorities and we shall see if remedy is made...stay tuned! :ermm

 

 

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