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Wilco — 22 October 2023, Denver, CO (Mission Ballroom)

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Hopefully someone got a good picture of Jeff taking a sip of water on stage tonight because it rarely ever happens. Better yet, maybe someone was quick enough to grab a shot of Jeff doing his best Michael Anthony impression as the show was winding down. More on that later.


What's this, Jeff actually consuming liquid on stage during a show? You knew something was amiss when he asked his guitar tech Cash to bring him a bottle of Topo Chico sparkling water early in the set and then sipped from it between songs three separate times within the first nine tunes. Indeed, as we subsequently found out (and I thought I had detected in Seattle a few night earlier), Jeff has apparently been dealing with some vocal difficulty lately — as if it wasn't enough that he had already been dealing with the osteoarthritis in his hip that will force him to get hip replacement surgery early next year.


"You may have noticed I'm struggling a little bit with my voice tonight," Jeff told the Mission Ballroom audience of several thousand about two-thirds of the way through the show. "I know everyone comes to see us for my pristine singing, but the more you sing along, the better it is."


Jeff then proceeded, in his only extended visit to Banter Corner, to explain that he usually refrains from drinking anything during a show because when he does, he feels the need to pee almost immediately. But "since we're getting close to the end of the show, I'm gonna chug this Topo Chico" and he did just that. He then joked about it being his best Michael Anthony impression — I could have sworn he actually said "Mark Anthony" — but clearly he meant the Van Halen bassist who is famed for his "Drunk Bass Solo" bit that has amused/horrified so many over the years.


"Does anybody know who that is?" Jeff asked (and incidentally, I Googled just to be sure and it turns out that Mark Anthony is the name of the brewery that makes White Claw Hard Seltzer and Mike's Hard Lemonade). "Good for you. Now I gotta burp." Pretty hilarious, and the discussion continued briefly into the next song when Jeff said that while Cash was swapping guitars, Cash said Jeff's was the second-best Michael Anthony impression he had seen and Jeff wanted to know what was the best.


Actually I didn't think Jeff's voice sounded that bad or that he was struggling all that much, but then again, it seemed like he also tailored the setlist to favor songs that probably weren't as difficult on his voice. For example, instead of going through with the planned — and more typical — encore of Falling Apart (Right Now), California Stars and Spiders (Kidsmoke), the band changed it up entirely and went with the shorter rock songs mini-set of Via Chicago and Monday>Outtasite (Outta Mind). That meant a show that "only" clocked in at 1 hour and 53 minutes versus some earlier in the tour that extended to as long as 2 hours and 10 minutes.


Another factor in that show length was that other than Jeff's chugging display, there really wasn't a whole lot of other noteworthy banter except for one other moment earlier in the set when Jeff explained, again continuing a trend from recent shows, that the band's new tactic was "brief check-ins." When someone in the crowd asked how Jeff was doing, he coyly deadpanned, "You know..."


Once again, on a personal note, it appears that I missed hearing Levee yet again (which apparently got played in Salt Lake City). I'm still hopeful we'll get to hear it sometime in the next four to five shows, but I'm less optimistic about the one remaining live holdout from Cousin — A Bowl And A Pudding — making its debut this week. It might have to wait until some later date when the band has had a chance to regroup after two months straight of touring in Europe and the U.S., but we shall see.


I don't want to say that the band is necessarily limping to the finish line of an unusually busy touring slate, but I do think it's fair to say that Jeff and Co. could probably use a little bit of rest. I know I could, and I don't have to get up on a stage and perform music for two hours every night (or most every night). So I would just say it's probably a good idea to take these last few shows with a grain of salt, and temper expectations to a certain extent. If you haven't had the chance to see the band play these songs from Cousin yet, the show will still be especially enjoyable. And if you don't see them all the time, you probably won't even be able to tell that anything is amiss. The great thing about this band is that it always has the power to surprise you, but it's also not afraid to show you that it's human, too.


Here was the complete setlist, as played, at the Mission Ballroom (in terms of changes/omissions, the entire encore on the printed setlist was different from the one that was actually played — Falling Apart (Right Now)/California Stars and Spiders (Kidsmoke) were scrapped):


Infinite Surprise

Handshake Drugs


I Am My Mother

Cruel Country

I Am Trying To Break Your Heart


Side With The Seeds




Bird Without A Tail/Base Of My Skull

Impossible Germany

Meant To Be

Jesus, etc.

The Late Greats

Dawned On Me

Heavy Metal Drummer

A Shot In The Arm


Via Chicago

Outtasite (Outta Mind)

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I kind of hope you're right about "A Bowl and a Pudding" on the theory that, if I can't have it, no one can. Some may consider that selfish. They would not be wrong.


Is there any possibility that Jeff actually referred to Marc Antony? (I've heard recently that men think a lot about the Roman Empire.) Or maybe he was talking about Latin superstar Marc Anthony? Tell me, baby girl, because I need to know...

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