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Wilco - 5 July 2024, Chautauqua, NY (Chautauqua Institution Amphitheater)

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(With regards to bböp)


Wilco came to deep Western New York for the first time in many years. Maybe close to 20, as I believe their appearance at the Rockin' at the Knox event, benefitting the Albright-Knox Museum in Buffalo, back in 2005 may be the last they played this part of the region south of Toronto and east of Cleveland. When I saw in March they were scheduled at the Chautauqua Institute, I smiled and thought 'what a crazy choice', but one that totally suites them. For those who may not know (and I'm still not absolutely clear myself, despite being a native WNY'er), the Chautauqua Institute, which rests on the northwestern shore of Chautauqua Lake, is a historic lakeside community that is equal parts living museum, academic/educational institute, cultural center, recreation area, summer community and more. Each summer featuring a weekly subject of lectures, discussions and learning that registrants attend and participate in, and speakers ranging from authors (this the stage Salman Rushdie was speaking from when attacked a few years ago) to international leaders to multiple presidents. I realize this is all very blah blah blah.....but this place is VERY unique, so just trying to put into context. Think of a 100+yr old lakeside college town where the campus includes southern gothic architecture everywhere for student housing, which is owned by people who sit out on their porches every summer night after an enriching day of lecture listening and intellectual growth (at least I assume). 


The Amphitheater is a historic design, but new build as of 2018, which a couple of ushers told us (I'd been in the old for work a event 30yrs ago, and this holds the architectural spirit of the o.g., which had to have been around 80-90yrs at that point). It's smack in the middle of the campus and is sunken, so although it's approximately 3-4 stories high, it doesn't rise above the roofline of the two story homes that immediately surround it. No lawn, there's numbered bench seating within that rises from the floor to grade level, and the GA portion in back is just open seating. I'll let you know right now that although the crowd ranged in age from anywhere around 10 - 80yrs, and the demo from out of towner fans to summer residents with a subscription type seat, there was no question it was standing crowd from the get-go. People were up and cheering every song all night, and I witnessed many senior newcomers to the band on their feet and dancing. 


The band came out to raucous cheering and they immediately began with Misunderstood, which was such a great surprise given the common openers this tour (a nod to CHQ?). The stage was sort of in-the-round, while still at one end of the room, and the seating surrounds it from all sides. However, the rear seats were left empty and the projections that have been running for their shows fell on the lighter toned, tiered rows of benches. This venue has a historic and simple design, but the staging required to accommodate the infrastructure a band like Wilco requires is all there. One of the best features is the proximity of the stage to the audience. It has a total church like feel, with the stage only 3.5 - 4' high, and the front row of bench/pew seating approx. 8-10' from the stage. Leaving the area between without any barrier or security, only polite ushers standing by to gently brush folks back who may have wandered up to stand and dance. The MC who made introductions earlier made clear the aisles and the front of the stage needed to be kept clear, and the crowd self-police notably well, while still creating a lot of energy for the guys to play to, and I will bet money the closeness had everything to do with it.


As for the setlist (see below, from Wilcoworld since I didn't take notes), as the kids say, it was fire. Pat stretched Bird W/O a Tail out so masterfully, it's becoming his counterpoint to IG, IMO (let's hear it for acronyms). I personally have not seen or heard it played live more than one other time since it's debut at SSF 22, which was in Aug. '22, so can't say how it's evolved over time, but it was amazing to see how they were all watching and listening to him, to see where he was taking it (we were close, which I'll get to). He kept finding run after run and it may have gone into the 10 min mark, after which Jeff very admiringly held his arms up for both sides of the stage to prompt the crowd to roar a bit more for Pat and Nels.

As for Nels and what he did with IG, it was simply stunning as he took the first movement into a harmonic realm that I haven't ever heard before (but as mentioned, I ain't no authority), and when Jeff spoke immediately following, he simply said..."Remember folks, he dwells among us". 


In Banter Corner™, Jeff remarked to young fan who was holding a handmade Raised On Wilco sign that it was duly noted and she did not need to continuing holding it up. This was about a third into the show and his tone was clearly a kidding one. He then apologized for her parents having "forced us on you". Later, during the encore, a crew member came over to the girl and asked for the sign, and took it back stage, assuming for it to be signed, which is what happened. (Note - after the final song, Mikael rushed to the edge of stage to crouch down and ask for the sign for was likely the very same purpose, and smiled when realizing it was already happening. Moments later, the Wilcrew member brings it out and literal squealing ensues. Very sweet and funny and there's a photo on the Wilco socials to check out).

As the show began to wind down , Jeff remarked that "we're getting close to the end" to the collective audible dismay of those close the stage, and says immediately off mic, looking towards John and Pat "I mean in general". Smiles and head shaking came from the guys as JT chuckles and says "sorry". 

The other most notable BC moment came just over halfway through the set, after the aforementioned BW/OaT, when Jeff paid tribute and acknowledged the entire Wilcrew and everyone who make their tours run so smoothly. He said they all make a daily request for each show and if they ever played that setlist, it would be a weird one. "I never knew you guys liked those songs"  he says with a questioning smile on his face (paraphrasing). He then directed attention to Jerry/Gerry? (apologies), who mixes front-of house, who he says "requests this song every night and we never play it". Then they played Company In My Back , with "this one's for you, Jerry".


Falling Apart started the encore, with Clai Stars next when they welcomed Cut Worms out to join. Max from CW brought out his guitar and played a solo after singing his verse. My wife and I were seated hard house left in front, so we could see very well all the interaction on stage as they exchanged looks and glances to cue one another, and it was very reassuring  to see Jeff motion with his guitar, while strumming it while sending a tennis backhand, to Max that he should trade back and forth riffs with Nels. Which sorta happened, but mainly it was very nice to see the generosity on stage (is there ever any doubt it doesn't exist on the regular?).


After CS, Jeff thanked the crowd and mentioned the band was taking a break after this show. There was no indication if it meant anything other than for the rest of the summer, which he hoped the crowd to enjoy themselves. They then went into U.S. Blues and it tore the roof off. As they chugged through that, Jeff checked in with Nels and then John, presumably to end it with that song, and cut Monday/Outtsite, which was on the printed setlist (per a photo seen on the socials). It was fitting end to a just over two hour show (onstage around 8:35 and off by 10:45), on a really pleasant summer evening. Walked to the parking lot through the cobblestone streets of Chautauqua which, when approaching the perimeter, were lit from the far end like it was Altamont. 


*once realizing there would be no review for this show, I took it upon myself to write one up in an effort to be a good citizen of Via Chicago. It was an exercise, and  proofed only as I went along, so please excuse typos, grammatical errors, run ons, etc.


Wilcoworld setlist here:






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  • Lukestar changed the title to Wilco - 5 July 2024, Chautauqua, NY (Chautauqua Institution Amphitheater)

Great review! I would love to have seen Wilco at an "historic" venue such as this. Sounds like a great finale to this tour  - will have to get the bootleg if they release it. Regarding Wilco's trips to Western NY, they have played Lewiston NY - a  mere 1 h 45m from Chautauqua - as recently as 2021. They also played there in 2009.

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31 minutes ago, Yaz Rock said:

 Regarding Wilco's trips to Western NY, they have played Lewiston NY - a  mere 1 h 45m from Chautauqua - as recently as 2021. They also played there in 2009.

Ha! You are absolutely correct.

Having attended both of those, all I can say is the crippling self-doubt I was experiencing when typing this CHQ review squeezed them out of my memory bank. Thanks for setting the record straight!

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You're welcome, and VC'ers need not have crippling doubt when writing show reviews nor have fear of bböp - he likes it when others chime in - in his own words, VC is "hardly meant to be an exclusive domain for my dumb ramblings" (quoted from one of my own reviews). You did well (and adhered to the thread title convention)! I may have forgotten that the original amphitheater was demolished and rebuilt, and I saw the Raised on Wilco pic on Instagram and wondered the backstory, so, many thanks!

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Not only did they play ArtPark in Lewiston a couple times since the 2005 cited by the OP...

Jeff Tweedy played Buffalo (full electric band) in 2014 (saw that one) & Ithaca, NY on that same tour (saw that one) & Wilco played Ithaca in 2015 (saw that one).

Wilco also played Rochester in 2008 & 2012 (saw that one). 


Sadly I had to miss the gig in Chautauqua last night, but I'm glad it was a great one & here's hoping they play some more live dates later this year & some more in Western/Central NY too!


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21 hours ago, Yaz Rock said:

in his own words, VC is "hardly meant to be an exclusive domain for my dumb ramblings"

True enough, he has dumb ramblings all over the place.

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