bböp Posted January 21, 2022 Share Posted January 21, 2022 When you consider all of the challenges of putting on an international gathering during a global pandemic and all of the back-and-forth in recent weeks over whether people would come or should come, if refunds should be offered, if the event should be cancelled or postponed, how many people would test positive and be forced to quarantine, what acts would drop out and everything else, I suppose you could say that it was a minor miracle that the second edition of Wilco's Sky Blue Sky festival happened at all, much less happened and left people wanting more. And yet I think that is what most of the attendees of this year's SBS would tell you, particularly in the aftermath of a packed fourth and final day that offered the most bang for your Wilco buck. (Dare I say that, pun intended, it was dynamite? Yeah, I guess so.) There was Nels Cline offering wisdom and inspiration during an afternoon workshop/Q&A session at the Stairway To Heaven stage before returning later for a solo — mostly — improv set. On the Heaven Beach stage, the Autumn Defense quartet delivered a perfect late afternoon set of original tunes and some of their favorite covers that I'll try to discuss/recap later in another post in this thread. And of course there was the main event in the form of the third and final headlining Wilco set of the week, which definitely put an exclamation point on what must be viewed as a successful week on the Riviera Maya. Once again, Wilco's 100-minute set with (most) of the band (at least temporarily) dressed in pajamas in keeping with the theme night turned into a round of Wilco and friends — much to the delight of the band and, I think, a significant portion of the pajama-clad audience. Taking center stage once again among those friends was the living legend Mavis Staples, who once again emerged for a two-song encore that closed out the set. First, she was joined by young British saxophonist Nubya Garcia (and siblings Sima Cunningham and Liam Kazar on backing vocals) for the Staples Singers classic I'll Take You There, on which Mavis went around to several Wilco members urging them on for their solo turns. I particularly enjoyed when she called Nels "daddy" and also went and stood next to John for a while as he laid down his bass groove. Then came The Weight, which is obviously a very popular choice — some might say too popular — whenever a big ensemble finishing number is called for. But it's hard to argue with it when Mavis is at the helm. It wasn't just her chipping in her vocal talents, however. Aside from being part of the four-person backing vocal choir that also included Kurt Vile and Spencer Tweedy, both Sima and Liam got to take a verse on their own, sandwiched around a verse sung by John. Prior to that were guest vocal appearances by SBS performers Stephen Malkmus (on Pavement's Cut Your Hair, which Wilco had performed sans Malkmus as part of its all-covers set at the 2013 Solid Sound Festival), Britt Daniel (on Kamera, which Jeff joked that Daniel "wanted to sing ... We didn't make him do it.") and Neal Francis (on Theologians, which Jeff said Francis had been supposed to just play keyboard on but "he came to practice with us and sang the shit out of it, so he's gonna sing this one, too.") In general — and I've always appreciated this about Wilco — I thought it was cool that the band made room for so many collaborations over the course of their sets. With so many talented musicians floating around, it would almost be a shame to waste the opportunity. It might not necessarily be what some folks want to see, but for those of us who have been fortunate to see a lot of shows, it can be the difference between a good show and a great one. And though they were technically part of Wilco for the duration of the festival, you could also include Sima and Liam on the list of collaborators. Both are accomplished performers in their own right, as is their "Young Jorgenstein" colleague Macie Stewart (who was absent from this final Wilco set because she had to fly back to Chicago early to play her own headlining show the following evening). Sima, in particular, seemed to be having the best time of anybody whenever she was on stage. She provided one of my favorite moments of the final Wilco set on Can't Stand It when Jeff turned over the screaming part of the song to her and she enthusiastically ran with it. She also "sparred" with Pat on an entertaining keyboard/xylophone back-and-forth during Bull Black Nova, and had a big smile on her face during Cut Your Hair (on which she added more distinctive backing vocals). It's a testament to how much there was to report from this show that I haven't even mentioned the full-band live debut of Sunloathe until now. But three songs into the set, there it was — inspired, Jeff said with tongue in cheek, by the abundant Yucatan sunshine. I'd have to listen to it again to really be able to describe it with any level of detail, but it was a treat to finally get to hear it live. I also thought it was cool that Liam was on stage for the debut since he had been courageous enough to cover it on the Wilcovered compilation a couple of years ago, well before the band had actually gotten around to playing it live. Sunloathe and a few other moderate deep cuts notwithstanding, the third and final Wilco set of the festival was probably a bit more predictable than the first two (A Shot In The Arm/Random Name Generator opening two-fer, "hits" such as Misunderstood, Heavy Metal Drummer, I'm The Man Who Loves You). As I've reiterated over the years, that's sort of what you get when you know there aren't going to be repeats in the setlist. But even a staple like I'm The Man..., for instance, had the added drama of whether or not Glenn would revisit his tradition of standing on his drum stool with arms extended beforehand — spoiler alert: he did — so the set still felt pleasantly surprising in many ways. On a personal level, it was once again a mostly enjoyable time down here. The concern about a positive test and being forced to quarantine for an indefinite period was always in the back of my mind and I basically kept my mask on any time I was indoors except while eating/drinking and if unable to socially distance outdoors. I don't think most people were that vigilant, so that added another layer to everything for me. It wasn't as "free" as the first SBS, but these are the times we live in. I still had fun and have no regrets going, though I certainly empathize with those who felt like they couldn't take the risk. Yet if things weren't exactly relaxed with the specter of Omicron hanging over everything, well at least I think Wilco (and, yes, Cloud 9) did their level best to try and make it a special experience for those who were able to make the trip. Here's to the next one... Here was the complete setlist, as played, for the third and final Wilco set of the second Sky Blue Sky festival (there were no changes from the printed setlist): A Shot In The Arm (L) Random Name Generator (L) Sunloathe (L, S) Handshake Drugs (L) Can't Stand It (L, SV) In A Future Age (L) Misunderstood (S) Far, Far Away (S) Bull Black Nova (S) Forget The Flowers (L) Kamera (L) (with Britt Daniel of Spoon on lead vocals) Theologians (with Neal Francis on lead vocals and keyboard ) Born Alone (L) Jesus, etc. (S) Hate It Here (S) Heavy Metal Drummer (S) I'm The Man Who Loves You (S) Candyfloss (L) Casino Queen (S) Outtasite (Outta Mind) (L) Cut Your Hair [Pavement] (L, SV) (with Stephen Malkmus on lead vocals) ------------------------------------------- I'll Take You There [The Staples Singers] (SV, LV) (with Mavis Staples on lead vocals and Nubya Garcia on tenor saxophone) The Weight [The Band] (SV, LV) (with Mavis Staples on lead vocals and Kurt Vile and Spencer Tweedy on backing vocals) S — denotes Sima Cunningham on keyboard SV — denotes Sima Cunningham on backing vocals L — denotes Liam Kazar on keyboard LV — denotes Liam Kazar on backing vocals 4 2 Quote Link to post Share on other sites
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