Haha, just kidding! It's been a blast, and we managed to survive 24 hours in Cologne as functional illiterates before Dunja arrived to act as our official German speaker (and to see Wilco, of course). I hope Paul doesn't hate me for squelching our potential debut on BBC TV, but at least we got to visit the Chocolate Museum. Yum!
Wilco, Live Music Hall, May 22, 2007: Just in case you're wondering who sees Wilco in Europe, consider this: Of the first dozen or so people in line for the show in Cologne, I'd say three of them were German. Make of that what you will.
I can't speak for the other Americans, but I can tell you why I've made the trip to see the band (no stalker jokes, please). From my limited experience, seeing Wilco in Europe, especially outside of England, is like going back in time. The clubs in Europe are much smaller than the theaters that Wilco fills in the States these days. Less important but somewhat amusing is the male-female ratio at the shows; much as in the old days of Wilco, the crowds are predominantly male. In Cologne, Paul estimated an 80/20 split, and I won't argue with him on that count.
Set aside the demographics and other superficial concerns, and the concert experience is pretty much the same. The language barrier didn't really factor into the show once the music started, and it stopped neither the banter between Jeff and the audience nor the stream of audience requests. My favorite exchange:
Jeff Tweedy: Play something good?
Conceded: Rock tourism is not for everyone. As such, I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who doesn't already have a heightened interest in the band or performer in question, but for those who do, the minutiae of differences in each performance can be endlessly fascinating; for me, they're the reason I almost always prefer the live show over the recorded output.
Sometimes, those variances are as esoteric as the slight tweaks that Nels puts into "Impossible Germany" or Jeff injects into "Spiders" every time they're performed; in fact, I could swear I heard a touch of "Dancing Days" in Jeff's guitar parts for the latter in the night's show. On the other hand, they can be as obvious as Jeff momentarily forgetting the lyrics or, in the case of this gig, Glenn missing the cue that ends the barrage of "nothing"s in "Misunderstood." I suspect that the musicians aren't always happy with those flubs, but as a concertgoer, I find them endearing and charming. I'd rather watch real humans in real time making beautiful music together--warts and all--than a clinical, pristine recording of the same any day.
Other highlights: Paul got the "obvious references to Germany" setlist he had hoped for, encompassing "Impossible Germany," "I'm a Wheel," and "Spiders." "Handshake Drugs," most notably the Jeff-Nels guitar face-off that comprises the climax of the song, still leaves me gaping every time. Also, I may never tire of "Impossible Germany," and I don't think I'm alone in that camp. Watching Jeff as he looked to Nels during the song, I was reminded of my other favorite performer's comment about playing with musicians who happen to be friends: It's almost like seeing a concert for himself. And in case you were wondering how the natives of the country feel about the song, rest assured that they seem to love it, judging by the cheers that welcomed the tune.
Carla Bozulich and Bobb Bruno joined the tour in Cologne, and Nels took his place with them on a handful of songs; Mikael Jorgensen and Glenn Kotche also pitched in for one song each. Carla is an undeniably arresting presence onstage, and her gorgeous voice and bracing lyrics may be her most powerful tools. She played a mix of originals and covers, old and new, rock and experimental, as you might expect from a performer who proudly brandishes her disparate influences and interests.
» a party there that we ought to go to