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Wilco — 24 April 2023, Huntsville, AL (Von Braun Center [Mark C. Smith Concert Hall])

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Seven songs into tonight's set, Jeff finally broke the silence by acknowledging Wilco's return to the state of Alabama. Ordinarily such a proclamation might have been more dramatic since the band doesn't necessarily get to this part of the world to perform every year — or even every few years — but in this case, you could say that the return wasn't especially long awaited. "We were just (here) a couple of days ago," the frontman observed genially. "We can't stay away."


Despite the fact that it hadn't been very long since a show in the area, local fans didn't seem to mind having another one to put into their memory banks. And this one was both a contrast with and a nice companion piece for the previous performance in Birmingham. That one had taken place outdoors on a delightful spring Saturday evening and had the vibe of a neighborhood block party, while this one was on a Monday night indoors in a relatively formal theater. If you were to pick a song to represent each night, a good one for the former would be a breezy California Stars that Jeff delightfully turned into "Alabama Stars," while for the latter, it would be Via Chicago with the sweeping, cinematic Many Worlds instrumental coda tacked onto the end, surely a nod to Huntsville's moniker as "Rocket City" and its role in the space program.


Perhaps the biggest commonality between the two shows might have been Jeff mentioning both nights how his allergies were running wild and seeking a little empathy from like-minded sufferers. (Tonight Jeff even took a couple of swigs of a beverage on stage, which he almost never does, so you knew something was bothering him, even though he seemed to get through it OK for the most part.)


That mention of allergies somehow led to one of the funnier moments of the evening, when out of nowhere, a guy pretty close to the stage with a very pronounced and nasal Southern accent sort of interrupted Jeff by loudly yelling out, "Come on, Pat!" Jeff gave a quizzical look in the guy's direction, and replied, "What would you like Pat to do?" Pat then chimed in on his own behalf, saying, "I'm trying my best up here." Then Jeff quickly brought the interlude to a snappy close by taking the one-liner opportunity handed to him on a plate: "It's true...I've seen him do a lot worse." *Cue rimshot*


Of course turnabout is fair play when it comes to band members giving each other "the business," and Jeff would get a taste of his own medicine a bit later in the show when he started rambling a bit while introducing Box Full Of Letters. He mentioned how it was the third song off their first album that the band was going to play during this show. "We're feeling fairly nostalgic, I suppose," Jeff said. "I'm just telling you what's going on in my head." Someone in the crowd yelled out, "You're killing it!" To which Jeff replied, "Oh yeah, I'm killing it. I've been doing this a long time and I've learned how to talk to an audience..." Meanwhile, behind Jeff, Glenn howled with delight as he continued to let the frontman ramble on and on, and eventually Jeff started calling attention to how his bandmates would usually save him from himself by starting the next song. "Glenn knows he can start the song anytime," Jeff quipped. "He could throw a life raft..." as Glenn continued to hold off. "Whenever you're fuckin' ready," Jeff finally yelled at Glenn in mock exasperation, and Glenn finally gave in. Maybe you had to be there, but take it from me, it was an amusing moment.


Speaking of amusing moments, the nightly trophy explanation and presentation has usually provided another one over the course of this year's touring and tonight was no exception. After the usual spiel about how the audience members had all been entered into a competition and been unknowingly monitored for who should win the "Best Behaved" trophy, Jeff turned to his right and decisively awarded the prize to Yunhee, the wife of our very own Sun Caught Fire (aka Steve). After asking her if he had pronounced her name correctly — ah, Jeff and Asian names...IYKYK — he awarded her the trophy and then jokingly(?) said she would have to share it with Steve. It's unclear if Jeff was aware it was actually Steve's birthday, which made the award perfectly timed, but in any case, it allowed for yet another bit about how the band knows all of its fans by name.


What else? Well, from a setlist standpoint, it does seem like the band has settled into a relative groove in terms of what it's going to play at these reserved-seat indoor theater shows. Of course there could be something out of left field anytime — and maybe there will be as soon as tonight at the Ryman in Nashville — but with five shows left on this run, it seems unlikely that the wheel will get reinvented. That said, it's always nice when we get a Bull Black Nova or a Shouldn't Be Ashamed thrown into the mix, both of which might not get played every night but are being performed often enough now that the band is starting to really lock in on what could be termed light-to-moderate rarities.


The thought had occurred to me during the show that this might have been Wilco's first performance in Huntsville, but a bit of light research reveals that the band had not only played a show in Huntsville previously, but it had even played the same venue back in 2006 (featuring an encore with the true rarity Let's Not Get Carried Away)!


Hopefully it won't take another 17 years for the band's next gig in Huntsville because, although this one was far from a sellout, it seems like there are more than a few Alabamans who would like to have the band back in town before another couple of decades goes by. "You're the best Tuesday night audience we've had in a long time," Jeff said, by way of offering a sly compliment (never mind the fact it was actually a Monday). "I feel like we should do this again sometime." Then, taking a brief glance around the room, he added, "Bring your friends next time..."


Here was the complete setlist, as played (the printed list I saw had I'm A Wheel as the final song of the show, but it was swapped out for Outtasite (Outta Mind)):


Handshake Drugs

I Am My Mother

Cruel Country

I Am Trying To Break Your Heart


One Wing

War On War

If I Ever Was A Child

Hearts Hard To Find

Impossible Germany

Bull Black Nova

Story To Tell

What Light

Shouldn't Be Ashamed

I'm The Man Who Loves You

Passenger Side

Box Full Of Letters

Falling Apart (Right Now)


Via Chicago>

Many Worlds (coda only)

Jesus, etc.


Outtasite (Outta Mind)

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1 hour ago, DiamondClaw said:

Thanks as always for the recaps @bböp.  They're always a pleasure to read. Are you surprised that "A Lifetime to Find" seems to have fallen out of the set entirely?

Yes and no. There’s a lot of tricky wordplay in that one, and maybe the allergies make it a little tougher to focus or something? 

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7 hours ago, Albert Tatlock said:

Yum. Nine meaty paragraphs. Ta.


You haven't picked up on the fact that's always what I aim for? (You'll get nine grafs out of me, and you'll like it!) ;)

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