bböp Posted June 20, 2022 Share Posted June 20, 2022 Dearest Albert, Well, it certainly must have been an eventful day in Wilcoworld! Not that I would know, but just before heading over to the first show of the band's long-awaited Spanish tour tonight, late word came in via the social media — sosh medes, if you will — that lead guitarist and all-around good fellow Nels would not be performing after testing positive for the dreaded corona earlier in the day. The show would go on, apparently at Nels' insistence, and some adjustments were made, but it turns out that the remainder of the Wilcomen are also quite talented musicos and they were able to not only limp through a performance but power through a full set of songs, new and old. Of course, the tall and elegant Sir Cline was much missed in his usual spot at stage right and I'm sure it was weird for Mr. Jeff to look over during a Wilco show and not see him there for the first time in nearly two decades. "(Nels) insisted that we go on with the show," Jeff said two songs into tonight's performance when he acknowledged Nels' absence. "It's our first show in 18 years without him, and hopefully there won't be very many of them. But we have a lot of songs (on the setlist), and we'd like to play them for you." Having done some light Internet research, I can say with reasonable confidence that this was the first Wilco show without Nels since he and Pat made their band debuts at Otto's in DeKalb, Ill., on 19 May 2004. The last time the band played a show without Nels was way back in the halcyon days of 2003 when it finished its touring for the year with a couple of short sets at the Bridge School benefit concerts in California in late October, which came on the heels of two shows at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago that brought to an end the touring cycle for Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Earlier this year, as you'll remember, the band played three shows at the Sky Blue Sky Festival in Mexico without a positive-testing Mikael when a tag team of Liam Kazar, Sima Cunningham and Macie Stewart helped cover his parts. This time, however, there would be no fill-ins, especially being so far from home and on short notice. So some tweaking of the setlist was certainly going to happen one way or another. As it turned out, it was probably fortunate that the band had both a new record and the recent YHF 20th anniversary shows from which to draw a bulk of songs for tonight's setlist on which Nels wouldn't be missed quite as much or could be covered somewhat. Actually with some of the YHF material, the sound reminded me of the days with the five-piece lineup (or even the four-piece, which I know at least a few VC old-timers pine for nostalgically). Sunken Treasure, which featured Jeff on electric guitar, was of course an inspired choice to pull into the set, and always wonderful to hear. You also figured that At Least That's What You Said, which the band has been regularly playing on this tour anyway and features Jeff on lead guitar, would be on the setlist, and it was. But even though Jeff usually does the shredding on that one, he admitted afterward that not having Nels there was taking some getting used to: "Playing electric guitar without Nels is like being on a high wire without a net," Jeff remarked. "It's been a long time." (To which someone in the audience said something like, "You're doing great," which of course opened the door for Jeff's bit about how he has the face of a guy who needs encouragement and how "that's my brand.") It was also probably fortunate that the first show without Nels came at the 1,800-capacity, stadium-seated, wood-accented Auditorio at the Kursaal complex. If I'm not mistaken, it's the lone indoor theater show on this Spanish run, so it was a place where quieter songs such as Ambulance and The Universe off Cruel Country as well as oldies like How To Fight Loneliness could work. Not that rock songs weren't performed, even without Señor Nels. The crowd, which remained seated throughout the main set and the first couple of songs in the encore, finally got to its feet — mostly — when the drum intro of Monday kicked in and remained standing as the band surprised some by also squeezing in Outtasite (Outta Mind) to close out the 1-hour, 49-minute show. (I must observe that I didn‘t hear Jeff mutter the traditional and transitional "son of a..." between the two songs, but he had a lot to worry about, so all is forgiven.) Another interesting song to be included in the set was Forget The Flowers, which of course usually features Nels' twangy solo. In his place, Pat stepped in and showed that he could twang it up a bit in his own right (on his cream-colored Telecaster, I believe). I actually thought the band might lean on Pat even a little more on guitar than it ultimately did, but as Jeff said in introducing him after Flowers, "he's covering a lot of territory (tonight)." Jeff actually wound up introducing all of the band members, which doesn't often happen — Mike ("he's got two hands, too!"), Glenn ("he's just doing what he normally does") and John ("my brother...I've been with him longer than anybody.") So for one night, at least, Jeff and Co. not only survived but (more or less) thrived despite the absence of their esteemed bandmate, who has been such a rock over the years. As Jeff said, here's wishing Nels a speedy recovery and that we'll see him back on stage very soon. And obviously let's also hope that nobody else in the band or crew catch a positive test; this is life for touring bands these days, unfortunately. It's clear that Wilco can probably do a show or three without any one member (except Jeff, I guess), but it's also clear that the band at full strength is something not to be taken for granted. Onward, and welfare to you! Yours in concert and banter reportage, Your Faithful Correspondent. Here was the complete setlist, as played (it looks like I'm A Wheel and The Late Greats were listed as the last two songs of the encore on the printed list, but weren't played): I Am My Mother Cruel Country I Am Trying To Break Your Heart Kamera Story To Tell Ambulance (Jeff solo) Sunken Treasure Hummingbird Poor Places War On War At Least That's What You Said Passenger Side The Universe How To Fight Loneliness Hearts Hard To Find Box Full Of Letters Jesus, etc. Forget The Flowers California Stars A Lifetime To Find Heavy Metal Drummer I'm The Man Who Loves You --------------------------------------------- Red-Eyed And Blue> I Got You (At The End Of The Century) Monday> Outtasite (Outta Mind) 3 Quote Link to post Share on other sites
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