Jump to content

Wilco — 14 October 2023, Berkeley, CA (Greek Theatre)

Recommended Posts

Though I'll admit I heard some pre-show grumblings from a few Northern Californians about how Los Angeles got five shows (and assorted autograph signings/radio events/what have you) while the Bay Area got just the one concert this time around, I also have to say that a sold-out Wilco performance at the esteemed Greek Theatre in Berkeley on a beautiful Saturday night certainly had a big-event feel about it and maybe that helped even out at least some of the perceived imbalance.


It had been more than 11 years since Wilco had played the Greek, the last time being a two-night stand on the Whole Love tour back in 2012, and the setting was as grand as ever. I think the seating structure might have been tweaked a little bit since the last time the band was here, certainly on the floor which used to be general admission standing but featured reserved seats at least for this show. The crowd down front remained seated through My Brightest Diamond's opening set, but fortunately once Wilco took the stage, most everyone stood up and remained standing for the duration. Looking out at the full spectrum of 8,500 people filling out the environs of the venerable open-air amphitheatre must always be quite a sight.


With the stage being so high — probably close to 10 feet — I worried about whether we'd even be able to see Glenn from our seats down front, but fortunately the seats were set back far enough that sight lines weren't too much of a problem. And for those sitting further back, this might have been the best show on the tour to appreciate the full scope of the projections that played behind the band, not mention the varied light show. Those sorts of things are what you would expect from a rock 'n' roll spectacle, after all, and Jeff acknowledged this area as the origin of all that.


"San Francisco...Berkeley...this has been our home away from home for a long time," Jeff bellowed near the end of the main set, a little while after he had also thanked the crowd for letting he and his bandmates play so many new tunes. "We want to thank you for inventing the rock concert."


Despite all of the apparent trappings of a rock show, however, we might also have been "treated" to a bit of a jazz performance — at least as Jeff jokingly defined it. During California Stars, Jeff worked hard to try and get as many people to sing along as he could. He encouraged the audience to sing along with almost-constant arm motions and gestures, until it came back to bite him when he flubbed a lyric the second time through. It was an obvious flub, too, because it happened when he was joined by John and Pat on harmonies and it was clear who had sung the wrong lines.


"It's jazz, man; I wanted it to be a round with both verses at the same time," Jeff said with a wry smile, looking both at his bandmates and the audience. "If you're not hip to that, man, then you're square."


On this night, "jazz" apparently happened more than a couple times. There was the hilarious I'm The Man Who Loves You in the encore, which Jeff had to restart not once, but twice, causing Glenn to lose it. Even Jeff couldn’t help but crack up at himself the second time. Maybe you had to be there, but the band had gotten maybe 10 seconds into the song the first time when Jeff waved it off, blaming it on his delay pedal being on and messing him up. So the rest of the band stopped and started the song again, only for Jeff to botch things and have to restart the song yet again. You rarely see that with Wilco, so it was just a moment when everybody had to laugh. On the third try, they finally got it right. (And why wouldn't they? It's not like I'm The Man Who Loves You isn't the most-played Wilco song of all time!) And earlier in the show, Jeff had another small lyric flub on Kamera when he got out of sync with John near the end of the song and had to stop his part early.


Jeff and Co. had much better luck with the six songs from Cousin that they played in the set. I enjoyed watching Glenn use the "marching machine" implement on Pittsburgh that I also noticed he broke out at one of the L.A. shows, and that song's dramatic guitar squeals really played well on the ace sound system at the Greek. Of course Infinite Surprise and Meant To Be were also once again the bangers that we expect them to be, and Sunlight Ends is a lovely mid-show interlude. My only minor personal grievance is that I once again missed out on hearing Levee, which seems to be played at every show I don't attend on this run. C'est la vie.


In addition to what I've already mentioned, Banter Corner was a bit busier tonight with Jeff opening up as the show went on. On one hand, Jeff continued to pay homage to the importance of the Bay Area musically, saying after the Bird Without A Tail/Base Of My Skull jam that "we put that together for you...just paying it back." And on the other hand, he also had some fun with one stereotype of the Bay Area when he retold the story about his elder son Spencer once coming to an area show, going out shopping with his mom and coming back in "head-to-toe tie dye." "What did you do to my kid?" Jeff asked the crowd back then. "You turned him into a fucking hippie." Back to the present, Jeff recounted that and added, "There were people who didn't realize that was a joke, and I hope they're not here tonight." On a more serious note, Jeff said just before starting the encore with Falling Apart (Right Now) that "I wish this song didn't feel appropriate all the time."


Overall, I don't know if a single show — even in such an iconic space — can make up for all the time spent by the band in Southern California, but I will say that this was probably the loosest, most fun gig I've seen from Wilco in a while. Even with just a couple of minutes remaining before the two-hour mark that typically brings the band's set to an end most nights, there was to be no cutting of the final planned song, Spiders (Kidsmoke) and, indeed, Jeff and his bandmates rolled through a ripping version of it that culminated in an epic singalong of the riff — ba ba ba ba ba ba ba — that sent thousands out into the Berkeley night with smiles on their faces.


Here was the complete setlist, as played, at the Greek (there were no changes/omissions from the printed list):


Infinite Surprise

Handshake Drugs


I Am My Mother

Cruel Country

I Am Trying To Break Your Heart>


Meant To Be


Sunlight Ends

Whole Love

Bird Without A Tail/Base Of My Skull


Via Chicago

California Stars


Impossible Germany

Jesus, etc.

Heavy Metal Drummer

A Shot In The Arm


Falling Apart (Right Now)

I'm The Man Who Loves You

Spiders (Kidsmoke)

  • Like 5
  • Thanks 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • bböp changed the title to Wilco — 14 October 2023, Berkeley, CA (Greek Theatre)
3 hours ago, Albert Tatlock said:


Intriguing. Nice!


Yeah, baby! Oh, yeah!                                                                       

Link to post
Share on other sites
21 minutes ago, bböp said:


Yeah, baby! Oh, yeah!                                                                       


Ta daddy-o. Sounds like the kind of looser performance I was pining for in another thread the other day.

  • Haha 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

I’m not one to declare every Wilco show as “best ever”, but this one was indeed special. I’ve never seen Jeff so animated in getting the crowd into singing and clapping and generally embracing the gorgeousness of it all. The outro’s to handshake drugs and a couple others seemed to stretch out almost jam-like. By the end of the show you could see Jeff looking out up to the lit-up lawn area and seeming almost overwhelmed with it all. For Spiders, he encouraged the clapping early on, and I thought we’d just get the audience clap-along when he implored us all to “keep it going”. But clearly he wanted more and then had to start the bababada singalong, complete with a David Lee Roth-esque “just one more time” to keep it going. It was quite a hoot. 

Good point about the lighting. We were about 4 rows up off the floor in the center which had perfect sight lines (we were kinda eye level with the band). It really took advantage of the outdoor space and scene for this one. 

But the most standout aspect for me was the sound. Maybe it’s just that we were a little bit back this time (I’m usually up front) but the sound was magnificent. The separation of the instruments was amazing - you could hear Nels’ and Pat’s guitars so clearly and individually during their parts on Bird without and other times when they both play. And the clarity on Nels’ current style of the IG solo was gorgeous. 

it really was a beautiful show all around. 

onward to Portland!!! 


  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

First of all, that "c'est la vie"/"Levee" pun is world-class. Bravo.


Does it make Northern Californians feel any better to know that one show at an 8,500-capacity venue means that more of them got to see the band than the number of Angelenos that did, when you add up the capacities of the five smaller shows in L.A. and consider how many people attended multiple shows?


That thing is called a "marching machine"? We were wondering about that at the Bellwether the other night when Glenn busted it out. It looked like someone had taped a bunch of wooden cylinders inside a large tambourine. Incidentally, the percussion instrument that dangles off the front of Glenn's kit (as seen from the audience) on his left looks like a cluster of Fig Newtons. Glenn's into some weird stuff.


On the topic of Jeff flubbing the lyrics of oft-played songs, I meant to mention that he accidentally re-sang the first verse of "Evicted" in place of the final verse at the Bellwether on Night 1. I thought, "Well, you've only played it a dozen times this week. You'll get the hang of it yet."

  • Thanks 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
On 10/16/2023 at 1:05 PM, Brian F. said:

That thing is called a "marching machine"? We were wondering about that at the Bellwether the other night when Glenn busted it out. It looked like someone had taped a bunch of wooden cylinders inside a large tambourine. Incidentally, the percussion instrument that dangles off the front of Glenn's kit (as seen from the audience) on his left looks like a cluster of Fig Newtons. Glenn's into some weird stuff.


Yeah, the marching machine was also used a fair bit on Ode To Joy. That record really saw Glenn go to town on some percussion things, which you can see on this great video breakdown he did for Modern Drummer. He talks specifically about the different marching machines he uses around the 18-minute mark of the video, about the song Hold Me Anyway. He actually has a handheld one, which is the one he's using on Pittsburgh, and then a foot-operated one that I haven't seen on stage on this tour for Cousin.

  • Thanks 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...