First of all, thanks to the New York Dream Team for snaring these tickets. Also, my deep gratitude goes to the crew for waiting out the heat and humidity for the second day in a row while I earned my keep at a cafe close by. Other than the weather, though, nearly everything about Warsaw was perfect: the size, the staff, the neighborhood, the dining options. Even better, it was a relief to know that some of the country's entertainment options remain out of reach of the Clear Channel.
Wilco, Warsaw, June 26, 2007: Along with the Pines, Warsaw was the other date on this tour that lit up the boards. Wilco certainly didn't need to add this small club show in Brooklyn to bring me out east, but I'm glad they did.
When you go to as many Wilco shows as I have, it's easy to lose track of all the changes the band has gone through, but Warsaw's tiny stage served up a reminder of the evolution of the lineup. Namely, the shallow space was crammed tight with the group's gear, and even the crew had to squeeze between instruments to take care of their duties.
The crunch could only be a boon to us as concert-goers, ushering in the immediacy that was somewhat lacking at the Hammerstein. If that weren't enough, the gawkers next to me were aching to share the intel they'd gathered from peeking at the setlist. I didn't want to hear, but it was too late, and at least one of the show's would-be surprises was revealed to me; fortunately, early returns indicated we weren't in for the typical brace of tracks.
You could feel the room's momentous energy from the second the band carefully filed in, and it only shot up from there. The electricity wasn't isolated to our side of the barrier, though; Wilco seemed to channel it as well, leading Jeff to ask, "Can you tell we don't have a curfew tonight?" He also declared that "curfews are for saps," but I never for a moment suspected that anyone in the room was less than a hale, hardy soul.
The setlist really was the star tonight, and I loved the songs that made the cut. Thanks to neighboring loose lips, I knew "Wishful Thinking" was in the cards, but it was lovely to hear it live for the first time in ages; "Why Would You Wanna Live" might've made me squeal (I'd almost forgotten the way it seems to swing between three different songs in the course of four minutes); "Hoodoo Voodoo" showed off the band's formidable three-guitar attack (with Jeff practically cuing the Nels-Pat face-off); and "Outtasite" continues its reign as Wilco's best good-time tune.
Of the more familiar songs, "Either Way" elicited a heartfelt, exuberant, and entirely uncoerced crowd singalong, which in turn brought a huge smile to Jeff's face; "Hate It Here" moved even the drummer to sing along; and we made the common mistake of speeding up our timing on "Spiders." In between these musical feats, we delivered birthday wishes in song to Matrix, worshipped the owl, and gave a shout-out to Pat's old neighborhood. It all added up to an atmosphere that was both easygoing but fervent, familiar but surprising. Despite my sweat-soaked clothes, sore vocal cords, and 7 a.m. flight time, I didn't want it to end.
I often cite the gig at Irving Plaza in 2004 as my favorite Wilco show of all time. We put up with a lot of drama that tropical day but were rewarded with a ton of goodies that broiling night, including the first "Hummingbird" hug, a frontman in sharp seersucker, and mounting evidence of Nels's mastery. But more than anything else, I remember peering out over a couple rows of pals and noting how happy we all looked to be there, enjoying not only the band but our still-developing friendships. It's not fair to compare the Warsaw show to that Irving Plaza memory, but the gig brought me pretty close to that same feeling.
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