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Wilco — 3 October 2023, Scottsdale, AZ (Scottsdale Civic Center [East Bowl])

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While the name of the Scottsdale Civic Center East Bowl, a new outdoor music venue here next to the Civic Center Library, is more than a tad clunky, I guess its origin story is halfway decent — at least as it pertains to Wilco. Apparently the Texas firm that designed the space digitally inserted Wilco into their plans and renderings of the venue as the representative band performing in it. And the members of that firm were in attendance tonight — along with a number of other prominent Scottsdalians — when fantasy became reality as Jeff and his bandmates inaugurated the East Bowl with a solid two-hour set under Arizona stars.


"Is everybody having a good time?" Jeff asked about halfway through the show. "What a night, what an amazing place...look at this place. We were told that when they designed this place, they Photoshopped us in as a way to manifest us (playing here). It's an honor to be the first band to play here."


Certainly it was a lovely evening, weather-wise, and a pretty decent crowd overall, despite there apparently being a couple of other big concerts simultaneously taking place in the Phoenix metro area (notably, the Postal Service/Death Cab For Cutie show at Arizona Financial Theatre and Foo Fighters/The Breeders at Talking Stick Resort Amphitheatre), which Jeff acknowledged on a couple of occasions, including early on when he thanked attendees for "flying with Wilco."


The East Bowl isn't a perfect venue for a rock 'n' roll show, at least the way it was configured for this inaugural performance. It's essentially a bandshell with a little brick terrace in front of it reserved for disabled folks and separated by a dainty white plastic rope from a lawn that gently slopes upward. I think the idea is to have people bring their lawn chairs and blankets and set up on the small hill that overlooks the stage, which obviously can work well for certain shows but which I (and others) worried might suck some of the energy out of the show. Fortunately, at least half of the crowd stood up once Wilco took the stage and there didn't seem to be the types of standing up vs. sitting down tensions that can be such a drag at venues like this.


Obviously the highlights, at least for those of us who have seen more than a few shows over the years, continued to be the songs from Cousin. After seeing the first show of the tour a few days earlier, I was personally delighted to get to hear a few more songs live for the first time and half the record overall. I'm more convinced than ever that Meant To Be will be a set closer at some point, or at least I think it should be. It's definitely one of my favorites of the new songs, with its bright melody and galloping rhythm, as is Soldier Child with Jeff playing what looked like a hollow-body guitar of some sort and taking the solo .


A few of us were speculating beforehand whether we might get an apropos Hotel Arizona, but alas that bit of pandering was not to be, nor was Jeff apparently in a mood to change California Stars to Arizona Stars as he has done with at least one other state and could easily have done to gain favor with this audience. I think he does have a soft spot for this area, though, having spent a bit of time here as a kid and with his sister Debbie now living here full time.


Jeff had a bit of fun at his sister's expense during the show, mentioning before the song Cousin how she was in attendance and that "she has an area" in the audience with some other family and friends, including at least one cousin (who Jeff made clear the song was not about). Later on in the show when he was comparing one side of the audience that was standing to the other side, which largely remained seated, Jeff jokingly noted that his sister was on the seated side, "so it can't be that cool." Debbie must have verbally protested, and Jeff said that he could hear her. It was a funny little moment, though I don't know how many people noticed.


I wonder if it was due to the presence of his sister that Jeff had a few lyric stumbles/flubs over the course of the show. Interestingly, they didn't come on any of the Cousin material, but on songs like Jesus, etc., that he has sung hundreds of times. I suppose that's the way it usually goes, though. In any case, I've seen much worse from Jeff and whether it was because he had such a personal connection to the audience or because of his hip pain (which he continues to struggle with, especially coming on and off stage) or just the day-to-day grind of touring, he mostly shrugged them off.


Ultimately, this was a perfectly fine show that allowed the band to showcase a decent amount of its new material and continue refining the live versions of those songs. Will this performance go down in history as an especially memorable one, even as far as Arizona Wilco shows go? Probably not. But it was still a nice night — shoutout to excellent fill-in correspondent nalafej, with whom it was a pleasure to finally chat with more than in passing — and I'm glad I amended my plans in order to attend.


Here was the complete setlist, as played (didn't get a look at the printed list, so can't say if there were any changes/omissions):


Infinite Surprise

Handshake Drugs

I Am My Mother

Cruel Country

I Am Trying To Break Your Heart

Soldier Child

Side With The Seeds




Bird Without A Tail/Base Of My Skull

Impossible Germany


Jesus, etc.

The Late Greats

Meant To Be

Heavy Metal Drummer

A Shot In The Arm


Falling Apart (Right Now)

California Stars

Spiders (Kidsmoke)

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I was blown away by the beautiful Allmans/Dead-esque jam at the end of Bird Without a Tail.  Sounded a bit like Bird Song or a mellower Jessica, brightly meandering guitar lines, the first and second-timers that came us (Deadheads) were impressed.  It kinda took the place of the jam at then end of Many Worlds that they played last Fall in San Diego.  I'd gladly take both in one show! 


It did leave me wishing for more rockers, I'm still hungry for Monday/Outta Sight, I Got You, Box Full of Letters, etc.  I'm regretting not making it to the Los Angeles run, I'm sure all of those will be played.


Stoked for Side With The Seeds and Spiders!

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We loved the show, our fifth time seeing Wilco. The new songs sound great! In total agreement on "Meant To Be." A real highlight. Nels is now my favorite lead player! I thought the venue was great, and the weather was perfect. I was hoping for more from Being There, and wonder why Star Wars, and maybe The Whole Love aren't represented. "Random Name Generator" would've fit in nicely, imo. We left very happy and satisfied!

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Really enjoyed the show.  Venue was lovely and thankfully they fixed the sound problems that marred the first one or two songs.  I'm usually a "must stand" guy, but we happened to sit near the front of the "not cool" (aka sitting side) and it was perfectly pleasant.  (And then we all stood for the encore.)  Although it's a little bit of faint praise given than it was only my 6th or 7th Wilco set, it was definitely my favorite "Impossible Germany."  And I will never tire of hearing "Spiders."  New songs will fit in nicely in years to come.


I too wish the band could have fit in more of their non-YHF/AGIB/SBS songs, but also not entirely surprising when Wilco takes more than 8 years to return to the Phoenix area -- so many albums they haven't toured here and they definitely wanted to make sure CC and Cousin got their due.

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I had the pleasure of attending this Arizona shindig and joined bbop up front. I'd say we were on the rail, but it was really just a rope. It was a great time.


Bbop, of course, captured all the action eloquently in his post but he neglected to mention his heckling of Mr. Tweedy as the hip replacement needing/Soldier child solo shredding/ cheerleader for spiders crowd participation stated that the gig was their largest Arizona crowd ever. No doubt this was a healthy sized crowd (despite the rock n' roll competition across town, but aided by Scottsdale folks just interested in attending the first show at the venue), but Wilco's 2015 appearance at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick (the baseball stadium where the Foos were playing) was the correct answer and bbop shouted so.


As far as the music. Unsurprisingly, it was very very good. Bird Without a Tail continues to be a standout and has leveled up from the shows I caught in 2022. Meant to Be is the fun trip to disco that we all need (as the set closer please!)! Spiders is sloppier than ever with each band member really going off which is appreciated at the end of the night.


I'll save my very minor quibbles with the venue and the setlist for myself and say that....


I'm really looking forward to catching the tour closer in Bentonville! 

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Glide Magazine review w/ embedded vids of Meant, Soldier Child & Evicted

"Wilco Opens Pristine New Scottsdale Civic Center Amphitheater With Strong New Album ‘Cousin’ Cuts - by Shane Handler

In a long list of probable bands, there is probably no safer choice than Wilco to open a new concert venue.
They don’t attract a wild drinking fanbase, their lyrics are relatively curse-free and the Chicago band can knock over the casual listener with catchy melodies.
So what if they are “dad rock”? They have earned the right to play wherever they choose.
However, this time around they were the chosen ones to open the new Scottsdale Civic Center Amphitheater.

In fact, when the prototype of the stage was being developed before the pandemic, the band was photoshopped on the stage as perhaps a manifestation for them to play there one day. And that “wishful thinking” got the band to open the new outdoor venue next to the existing indoor Virgine G. Piper Theater.

A natural amphitheater with a pristine layout mingled with the artfully curated grounds of the nearby Arts Center, allowed for a winning combination of sound, sight, and ambiance on September 3rd opening night. Admission through the gates was hassle-free, there were minimal lines the sold-out show was not oversold and there was plenty of space.

Thanks to Live National and Scottsdale Arts for keeping it tame, when they probably could have sold more tickets.




While musically the safe booking choice, lately the band itself has been precarious in their sound maneuvers. So while its constant debate amongst Wilco fans about what album era and sound direction is their favorite, this current version of the band mixing heavy on their most recent releases-  Cousin and Cruel Country – proved inspiring aside from the regular setlist “classics.

“Jesus Etc,” “Handshake Drugs,” “California Stars” and “Misunderstood” are as predictable to be played at a Wilco show as one of Jeff Tweedy’s dry witty one-liners. With 13 albums now to date, one would almost expect a Grateful Dead-type full setlist change from show to show. But perhaps that wouldn’t be giving certain fans the songs they came to hear and a Wilco show is about the “songs,” not the “scene.”

It’s uncommonly bizarre this lineup of Wilco has been together for almost twenty years and while most of the band members look the same as they did when A Ghost Is Born was released; it’s their leader Tweedy who has aged and changed physically the most. But remarkably has become even more prolific a writer (three books come November) over the years as the band visionary leading Wilco through ongoing sound experiments. And of course, its still his “subconscious” lyrics that have always been the glue that earns new listeners.

Following a brief yet impactful and guitar-centric opening set from My Brightest Diamond, Wilco opened the inaugural show with the first track off last week’s just-released new album Cousin. “Infinite Surprise,” with its slow buildup and colorful sound collage won over the audience immediately and shows why Cousin is their strongest album statement since 2011’s mixed approach The Whole Love. Guitarist Nels Cline then had a chance to string in the new venue with a voracious solo at the end of “Handshake Drugs” that got the blanket sitters on the lawn scuttling upright a few more degrees. The Cruel Country double paring of “I Am My Mother” and the title track showed this 2023 version can drop the twang and aching guitar sounds finer than most any Stagecoach Festival band.

On a night that saw the Phoenix area also hosting The Postal Service/Death Cab for Cutie and Foo Fighters in separate venues, Tweedy was appreciative that his band still mattered to many.

“Thank you for being here we know you have many entertainment options tonight. Thanks for flying with Wilco,” he confided.

And while the subdued crowd was hardly flying, the heady new material might have had the fans soaring in their own heads. Another Cousin track “Soldier Child” was on point and brought a breezy ‘70s California folk sound to the desert grounds. Cruel Country’s “Bird Without a Tail/Base of My Skull” brought a proggy pastoral patchwork of sounds where Tweedy’s sensitive pining vocals eventually faded into a guitar square-off with Cline and Pat Sansone.

This instrumental goodness laid into another guitar dual as the band laid into the often-played “Impossible Germany” where Cline, Sansone, and Tweedy’s three-guitar interplay made for the rock and roll fireworks of the night. Fans of Television’s Marquee Moon would find solace in this pantheon of six-string squalls.”

“Everybody all right over there?” Tweedy asked the front part of the lawn who might have been awestruck at the most recent song. “It happens during Nels’ solo…it knocks ’em right down,” he admitted.

“I think this is the most people we’ve played to in the state of Arizona,” Tweedy declared. “They are here at my sister’s invitation. She has an area…a section. I think my cousin is in that section.”

Sure enough, they then dived into Cousin’s title track which soon very well be one of Wilco’s finest live songs, where all band members got to put their “hey” into the musical conversation. The catchiest Cousin song “Evicted” followed, and with its “Raspberry Beret-ish” opening phrases, is a soon-to-be Wilco stand-by in the vein of “A Shot in the Arm or “Kamera”. 

And while the rest of the show followed the setlist pattern of prior 2023 shows, the Cousin material proved complex and interesting enough to satisfy even the most jaded Wilco fan. As the repetitive pulsating beats of “Spiders (Kidsmoke)” capped the 21-song performance, it signaled a Wilco show that hit on all agreeable audible levels."



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Hmmm. Not sure about some of that. The drink lines were very long (easily 15+ minutes) between the opener and wilco to the point where I passed on getting a drink because I would have missed the start of their set.

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Yup, he got a few things wrong:
i submitted a comment (under review) about the feedback during first two songs & the reason behind the "Nels' solos knock 'em over" comment (EMTs led a dude out).
Good thing i decided to get food instead of booze during opener (snuck a bunch of tequila in).

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