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Wilco — 26 October 2023, St. Louis, MO (Stifel Theatre)

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Ah, St. Louis...always a date to circle on the calendar whenever Jeff and/or Wilco decided to swing through town and play a show. I mean, it is another one of those homes away from home for our leading man — in fact, it is pretty much literally that — even if he has often had a kind of tumultuous relationship with the city. Certainly there's a ton of personal history here for the Belleville, Ill., native, and I think that history has become even more intense in some ways as he has gotten older and he has gone through the sorts of life changes that we all experience.


Particularly since the death of his father Bob back in 2017, it seems like coming back home has stirred up even more feelings than usual for Jeff and of course that naturally spills over to a certain extent into his performance on stage. Tonight was no exception, and he even opened up about it toward the end of the set probably more than I've ever heard him do.


What started as just another brief audience check-in turned into more when Jeff heard one of the many shouts of "Welcome home, Jeff," from the audience. "This is very close to where I grew up, I think everybody knows that," Jeff said before Jesus, etc. "It's always very emotional coming back (now). I feel like an orphan in some ways because my folks are gone, but I still have you. I still have my aunt Gail. ... She gave me all her Motown records, her Byrds records — all of her records — and I don't know what I would have done without those."


Then to start the encore, we got the fun treat/walk down memory lane/rock romp that seems to only happen in St. Louis these days when Jeff and his bandmates started to play the familiar riff that kicks off Casino Queen. I wasn't sure it was going to happen, given the flow of the setlist at these recent shows, but I certainly wasn't complaining. And it worked well as a lead-in to the usual encore opener Falling Apart (Right Now), particularly as a sort of mini-tribute to Jeff's father. "Just because my dad isn't here doesn't mean we shouldn't play that song," Jeff said of his dad's favorite Wilco tune. "I actually think he would have liked this (next) one, too. It would have been the third song of mine that he liked."


Maybe Jeff decided to play all of his father's favorites this time since the last time he performed in town, at a solo show in July, he had several lyrical flubs that he attributed to not playing those songs. Tonight, he only had one minor snafu during Side With The Seeds when he struggled with the "...and the swings all slowly die" lyric in the first verse.


A few other music-related tidbits for the nerds included a relatively rare song dedication, of Everyone Hides, to "Amelia." Jeff didn't specify exactly who she was or why the song was dedicated to her, but did joke afterward, "I hope Amelia's here." Meanwhile, during Hummingbird, Jeff eschewed his usual clapping during the breakdown as he dug through his pockets, apparently looking for a guitar pick. And for the second consecutive night, the planned show-closing duo of Monday>Outtasite (Outta Mind) was scrapped in favor of Spiders (Kidsmoke) for some reason.


Only Jeff probably can say why the latter would happen, that is why the planned end of encore would switch in the moment from one thing to another. I've always wondered how that decision gets made. Is it based on the audience, and more specifically, the energy it is giving back to the band? Because if it were just about pleasing the crowd, I can't imagine how cutting the only two songs from Being There in the entire show would do that, especially in St. Louis, where you had to figure there were more "old timers" — or at least fans of the first few albums — than people who embrace the band's more experimental side.


On the other hand, if it was about the crowd energy, well I can understand that a little more. Having a few rows in front of me tonight, I could see that not very many folks in the pit section seemed very responsive or active at all. I know different people enjoy shows in different ways, but it just seems to me like based on what I saw in front of and around me, this was a pretty blah audience. I'll never really understand how people can barely move a muscle during certain songs like A Shot In The Arm and yet I observed a number of people who stood dead still with the their arms crossed. For all the enthusiasm of people eager to welcome Jeff home, that energy just didn't seem to carry over wholeheartedly into the crowd dynamics.


Maybe with Spiders (Kidsmoke) being swapped for Monday>Outtasite, Jeff thought it would give a better chance for crowd participation. But those hopes were somewhat dashed when we got to the clapping and singing-riff section at the end of the song. After a couple of attempts to get the audience to loudly belt out the "ba ba ba ba ba bas," even Jeff had to cajole many of the attendees with an "Aw, c'mon." Ultimately, though, it seemed that the crowd on the whole lived up to the eponym of the Stifel Theatre and were, well, a bit you know.


Here was the complete setlist, as played, in St. Louis (as previously noted, Monday>Outtasite (Outta Mind) were once again listed as the final two songs of the encore on the printed setlist, but were replaced by Spiders (Kidsmoke)):


Infinite Surprise

Handshake Drugs


I Am My Mother

Cruel Country

I Am Trying To Break Your Heart

If I Ever Was A Child

Meant To Be

Side With The Seeds



Bird Without A Tail/Base Of My Skull

Everyone Hides

Via Chicago

Impossible Germany


Jesus, etc.

The Late Greats

Heavy Metal Drummer

A Shot In The Arm


Casino Queen

Falling Apart (Right Now)

California Stars

Spiders (Kidsmoke)

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