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Wilco — 17 April 2022, New York, NY (United Palace) [Night 3 of 5]


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Oh, you mean I have to keep writing different recaps for what is essentially the same show night after night during Wilco's two-city world tour, 20th-anniversary celebration of its breakthrough album, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot? Well, you see, the band is joined on stage by a string quartet and a small horn section, they play each of the album's 11 tracks the way they appeared on the record, come back out and play a few other songs and people either like it a lot or complain about how they expected more and we all go home and are in bed by 10:30 p.m. Rinse, and repeat...

 

Just kidding! Of course, every live show — even ones that are part of a singularly focused mini-residency like these YHF gigs — is its own thing somehow. Whether it's a variation in the setlist, a hiccup in the performance, the energy of an audience or any number of other factors, there is something that makes each show unique. And that's why we keep coming back. Right? Right?

 

Since this was my first show since The Great Compromise (that's how I decided I'm going to henceforth refer to the decision made by Jeff and his bandmates on Saturday night to add a few songs to the end of the set to placate the outraged citizenry of a portion of the Wilco fanbase, er, social media contingent), I suppose I can start there in terms of distinguishing tonight from others, at least in my own mind. Once again, the band and its performance partners in the Aizuri (String) Quartet and Total Pros horns returned for an encore after the full YHF set. And in addition to the original trio of songs (Bill Fay's Be Not So Fearful, Pieholden Suite and A Magazine Called Sunset) that comprised the Night 1 encore, they also once again played the YHF-era rarity Cars Can't Escape, a string-laden version of Hummingbird and the closing parenthetically-titled duo of I Got You (At The End Of The Century) and Outtasite (Outta Mind) that was added on Night 2. Personally I thought the familiar finale felt a bit tacked on, but if that's what it takes to make some folks feel like they got their "money's worth," then I'm all for it.

 

Now, of course, tucked into that encore was the surprising inclusion — cue the #BustOutAlert , JamBase friends — of another YHF B-side, The Good Part. You knew it was going to be a song that the band doesn't play very often when Jeff's guitar tech came out with a lyric sheet that he deftly placed at Jeff's feet and Jeff introduced it as "the deepest cut of all time...(It) should've been a hit." He added that they had sent the song to then-label Warner Brothers Records at the time as an example of what they had been working on and "(the label) said it keeps getting worse." The band hasn't performed it very much live at all — not since a couple of times in 2014 during that year's Winter Residency at the Riv in Chicago. Before that, it hadn't been in the setlist rotation since 2006. That was obviously a highlight for the nerds among us, and it was great to hear it again even if it might have been lost on much of the audience. Is this the good part?...indeed.

 

Jeff saved the vast majority of his chat for the evening for the immediate aftermath of the album performance when he thanked the crowd for being a part of the YHF celebration and said that "we wanted to do a good job playing this record for you. And I have to tell you, it's pretty hard." Then he said that he and his bandmates "had some help," and individually introduced the seven players who augmented the performance, including the four members of the Aizuri Quartet, which he said represented the beauty and creativity Wilco had been striving for when making this record — and for which, Jeff added, they still are striving.

 

Afterward, Jeff also individually presented each of his bandmates — all except Glenn, of course, which caused the drummer to crack up. Jeff quickly corrected himself, but still (jokingly) mispronounced Glenn's name as "Glenn Kotch," before getting all sincere and noting how Glenn had transformed his life and the band's life and pointing out that Glenn had joined the band during the tumultuous creation of YHF, his first day coming right around the same time Sam Jones began filming for the I Am Trying To Break Your Heart documentary. After all of that, Jeff finally uttered Glenn's name correctly, the two old friends exchanged googly eyes at one another and their longstanding bromance was once again revitalized.

 

As for the performance of YHF itself, once again it was all about the details. I continued to be impressed by the dedication put in by the band to consciously unlearn and relearn how to play all of those songs, and I wonder if that process will have any effect on future performances of them — or if, when this two-week celebration is over, they will simply revert back to how the arrangements had evolved over time.

 

I've already pointed out some of the changes in my Night 1 recap, but I think there will probably be different things that strike me during each of these shows I'm able to attend. Tonight for whatever reason, one song I took notice of was I'm The Man Who Loves You — from Pat's acoustic guitar strums at the start to John and Pat's backing vocals that restored the "ooh oohs" and "woo hoos" from the album version that have unfortunately gone by the wayside over the years to Jeff actually singing the final "writing this letter to you" lyric, which he does on the record but has omitted from the live arrangement for a long time. As I have mentioned, there's plenty of fodder here for the Wilco nerds.

 

To wit: There was something oddly endearing to me in Pot Kettle Black when Jeff flubbed a lyric at the start — he sang "Baby suck your thumb" instead of "Waves a magic wand," if you must know — and also sang the "rearrival of my health" line in the higher key that he usually does live as opposed to the more hushed way he sings it on the album version. To me, those two relatively minor bits showed me that this YHF performance is still a living, breathing thing from night to night and that any of it can still change in subtle but interesting ways.

 

Here was the complete setlist, as played (either Aizuri (String) Quartet and Total Pros horns or both were present on stage for entire set, though strings and horns did not play on every song):

 

I Am Trying To Break Your Heart

Kamera

Radio Cure

War On War

Jesus, etc.

Ashes Of American Flags

Heavy Metal Drummer

I'm The Man Who Loves You

Pot Kettle Black

Poor Places

Reservations

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

Be Not So Fearful [Bill Fay]

Pieholden Suite

Cars Can't Escape

A Magazine Called Sunset

Hummingbird

The Good Part

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

Outtasite (Outta Mind)

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Thank you sir! I don’t know why they just play the Jay Bennett engineered versions in an opening set followed by the Jim O’Rourke versions. Perhaps Jeff could throw up between sets? 

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“Oh, you mean I have to keep writing different recaps for what is essentially the same show night after night”

-  Err, yes I checked your contract.

I too thought they might go with the album and Engineer demos. i would have been happy with that in the strange imaginary world of ever getting to see Wilco again. Though having said that have just done the first bit of foreign travel for 2 years - but still can’t easily get to the USA (no ESTA) since I visited Iran 3 years ago. Have to say it was worth it though :-)

 

Ta.

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I was at Friday’s show and last night’s and definitely thought I got my “money’s worth” and then some on Sunday. I would disagree that the second set felt tacked on because the auxiliary musicians continued to play with them. Even “Outtasite,” which was really powerful with the horns and strings. It worked really well.

 

Hearing “Cars Can’t Escape” was incredible, as was “The Good Part” (though it took me a second to recognize it). And last night may have been the best version of “A Magazine Called Sunset” I have ever heard.

 

As for YHF, I think I preferred Friday’s performance. I felt (and I’m not sure if I’m the only one) like Sunday’s performance veered a bit closer to how the band normally plays the songs. Yes all the details were there, but they are tinkering a bit. Not for the worse, necessarily, but I’ll cherish hearing all the songs the way they played them on Friday, which was incredibly close to the album versions.

 

That said, last night’s version of “Reservations” was one for the ages. They spectacularly pulled off the end and the audience gave them the attentiveness the song demands, not cheering until it ended. Jeff seemed grateful for it all.

 

Also, this run’s MVP is Pat. His ability to play so many instruments is being put to good use, often in the same song.

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Just wanted to chime in and thank you, bböp, for this fantastic recap. I don't have a point of reference for Friday night's show, but last night felt very very satisfying. The outro of "Reservations" was just gorgeous, and I had never heard "Cars Can't Escape" nor "The Good Part" live and they were a real treat. 

 

And, NoOneKnowsMe, you're 100% correct that Pat is the MVP. I have always considered him the most technically gifted musician in the band. His ability to switch between instruments, and play multiple instruments at once, is so impressive. I first noticed this during the Sat night performance of "Bull Black Nova" at 2019 SS, and again last night...man his bells are loud!!

 

Again, I appreciate all the thorough dissection of these performances. Thanks very much.

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Finding a way to extend these whole album shows must be a headache for bands without veering towards a regular concert/setlist. I've been to a couple over the last 4 years. The Teenage Fanclub Creation era shows were great (eh bbop?). Three nights, two albums a night with a short 10 minutes between each set. My only grumbles were no encores and straight off after the second set. The third night was strange, featuring just one album with the second set being made up of B-Sides from the era. Once again great but finishing with songs not originally considered good enough for the albums was strange. A wonderful 3 night run featuring all of the musicians used in the original sessions. 

 

Another of these was Massive Attack's Mezzanine XXI shows. I wasn't sure how it'd be done and didn't think an hour wouldn't suffice for most. Mezzanine was an album that featured lots of samples, some subtle, some less so. Their way around extending and holding on to the Mezzanine only fibre was to perform covers of songs used to sample, so we got I Found A Reason, 10:15 Saturday Night, Bela Lugosi's Dead, See A Man's Face (Horace Andy), Rockwrok and Where Have All the Flowers Gone thrown in throughout the set. Not sticking to the original running order they saved the "Hits" till last for a faux encore. Bingo a 100 mins show. Still moans from the crowd at the end and all over social media. 

 

I doubt I'll get to see one of these YHF shows but await the odd recording which will show up in the usual places. 

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Great show last night. Was in the first row of the upper loge and had a great vantage point. Sound was not as great as I hoped. Could barely hearing Nels from where I was, which was the opposite side of the stage from him. Parking was a total mess, but thankfully found a lot after 35 minutes of looking for street parking, which I usually find in the city.

 

Honestly, just thankful I could get to go and see this masterpiece played live in full.

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I thoroughly enjoyed Sunday night as well. I didn't sense any negative vibes in my section nor in the audience in general - in fact the mood was palpably positive. I sat further back this night, which allowed me to enjoy the light show a little better. I was pretty happy with a few photos I was able to take, but I didn't get a chance to post them last night. I'll reply later with pics.

The Good Part wasn't on my list of Deep Cut Prognostications so, good on the band for going deeper than even I guessed. In fact somehow that song was omitted from my YHF outtakes compilation originally, and I didn't become aware of it until the SBS era. As far as playing songs "representative of that era", I am surprised that Not For the Seasons has not appeared yet. That song opened many of the spring 2002 shows. I've always felt like it was the last song cut from the YHF album, if there ever was such a thing. Maybe tonight!?

I'm also thinking Monday in place of/in addition to Outtasite? Jeff has said before that that was Jay's favorite song to play, I believe. In any event, the encores have been fun and I enjoyed hearing those songs with the additional instruments. The sound on the floor has been great and the instruments clear, at least where I've sat.

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1 hour ago, Gold87 said:

They really play I Got You (At the End of the Century) without Red-Eyed and Blue proceeding it? That feels like having eggs with no bacon. 


I still feel that way when they don’t segue into Someone Else’s Song! Back in the day all three songs were played together.

 

Opening Solid Sound in 2013 with I Got You was awesome.

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