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Wilco — 18 June 2022, Kent, UK (Eridge Park) [Black Deer Festival; Day 2 of 3]


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Billed as Wilco's only UK appearance this year, I think this performance at the Black Deer Festival in Kent had actually been in the works for somewhere in the neighborhood of three years or more owing to the pandemic. Personally it wasn't a show that I ever thought I would actually make it to, but sometimes life has a funny way of working out. And so I found myself getting on a train from Brussels to London in the morning, then two more trains to get to the Tunbridge Wells station and then a shuttle bus to the festival site and then hiking short distance into Eridge Park until I finally arrived at Black Deer's surprisingly small intimate main stage by mid-afternoon.

 

Talk about a contrast with the festival Wilco played at on a Belgian beach the night before. The two scenes couldn't have been more different in general, probably, but even though we were probably further back from the stage at Black Deer than at Live Is Live, the stage was only about half as high and there were no giant video screens so things were about as intimate as you could probably get for the main stage at a reasonably-sized festival. (And have I mentioned no sand?)

 

Though Wilco technically were the day's headliners, the band was slotted into the penultimate slot on the main stage, following American singer-songwriter Courtney Marie Andrews and her band and the Scottish veterans The Waterboys. Andrews seems to be perhaps even more popular in the UK than at home, and she entranced the audience with a set of songs both new and old before the wind and chill started to pick up just in time for Wilco's long-awaited performance. "I'm glad we finally got to do this show for you all," a Stetson-topped Jeff said, in his only comments before the end of the set.

 

I wasn't sure how Wilco would be received, actually, when I saw a few folks in the front putting pieces of cotton in the ears during Andrews' relatively gentle set. But apparently there were more than a few Wilco die-hards who had made the trek from near and far, so that set a good mood at least as far as I could see. And fans of both Wilco and Andrews were rewarded when Jeff and Co. invited the latter and her bandmates back on stage for a joint rendition of California Stars near the end of their set.. Andrews chipped in on vocals, while her three bandmates all contributed some form of percussion, while interestingly (though perhaps more understandably than the previous night), Pat once again did not play the banjitar.

 

Setlistwise, the band pretty much stuck to its general script of mixing in a selection of tunes from Cruel Country with some old favorites. One swapout that I don't believe had been played yet in Europe was Ambulance, which Jeff played truly solo while the rest of the band temporarily left the stage.

 

For the second straight night, the band also played in front of a more plain black backdrop that just read "Wilco" in a stylized font (which I'm pretty sure was the same backdrop the band used for the complete Cruel Country set at Solid Sound) as opposed to the much more intricate reddish one that features "Wilco" and a series of leafy designs in a lace motif. I'm sure the explanation for that has to do with mundane production issues like the specs of the festival stages or setup times, but anyway, I figured it was at least worth noting.

 

As far as Banter Corner, other than the aforementioned brief comment Jeff made relatively early on there really wasn't anything of note until he interjected again near the end of set to say that he and his bandmates "were trying to fit in as much music as we can in our allotted time. You never know when everything might get shut down again." Jeff was  referring to the pandemic, I think, but he could have just as easily been talking about the incoming weather. You could see Wilco's crew members looking and pointing out at the sky with concern before the set and preparing for the worst, but fortunately they were able to get everything in without any interruptions.

 

Not so lucky for The Waterboys, or so I later heard (see post below). By then, Wilco — and hopefully, CMA and her band — were probably nicely ensconced in their various touring vehicles, having cut through the swirling Kentish winds and gloom for at least a little while with their individual and collective takes on Americana and in so doing, bringing smiles to more than a few British faces in the process.

 

Here was the complete setlist, as played, at the Black Deer Festival (The Late Greats was listed as the final song of the set on the printed list, but wasn't played):

 

A Shot In The Arm

Story To Tell

I Am Trying To Break Your Heart

I Am My Mother

Cruel Country

Handshake Drugs

Hummingbird

Ambulance (Jeff solo)

Love Is Everywhere (Beware)

War On War

Bird Without A Tail/Base Of My Skull

Impossible Germany

At Least That's What You Said

Via Chicago>

Many Worlds (coda only)

Jesus, etc.

A Lifetime To Find

California Stars (w/Courtney Marie Andrews on co-vocals and CMA band members on various percussion)

Falling Apart (Right Now)

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Thanks for the setlist. Thought the show was amazing and a really great mix of songs. Band looked like they were having fun. 
 

It was also lucky they played before the Waterboys despite Wilco being main headliner as that got suspended due to weather and was chaos getting out the site. The festival was poorly organised but thankfully Wilco made it all worthwhile.

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17 hours ago, Nick110581 said:

Thanks for the setlist. Thought the show was amazing and a really great mix of songs. Band looked like they were having fun. 
 

It was also lucky they played before the Waterboys despite Wilco being main headliner as that got suspended due to weather and was chaos getting out the site. The festival was poorly organised but thankfully Wilco made it all worthwhile.

 

Oh, wow. Didn't realize that the Waterboys' set got cut short since I had to leave fairly quickly after Wilco's set to catch the shuttle bus back to the station to make the last train back to London, though I suspected it couldn't have been terribly pleasant to be out there when I saw the rain pouring down (fortunately just after I had just gotten on the bus).

 

To be honest, I was a bit annoyed that they waited so long to announce the stage times because it made it difficult to sort transit options, etc., but in the end, it proved to be a lucky break that Wilco got the penultimate slot on the main stage (as opposed to the final one, as usually goes to a festival headliner). As someone who's been a victim of tough weather luck more than once at outdoor Wilco shows, I guess we really did have fortune on our side this time.

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Feeling a bit short-changed - hopefully with the next album there'll be a few more dates in the UK. Dallied with the idea of a trip to Spain, but really the flights situation is so dodgy at the moment that it's not worth the risks.

 

Ta.

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3 hours ago, Nick110581 said:

Uk dates will be next year 

 

Hopefully they will play more than just London and Manchester this time...

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That’s a great review!!! Still on a high after waiting almost 3 years to see them again. My son and I were buzzing on the front row and didn’t feel the cold until they left the stage….then we froze.

 

wonderful to see you, Paul. Wouldn’t have been quite the same without you 😊

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