Reporting in for my third--and most extensive--tour of duty yet on Wilco's Sky Blue Sky tour, but also, the first one sort of in my general region of the world. Warning: My umpteenth account of why I love "Impossible Germany" every time I hear it may or may not resemble coherent English at this point, so feel free to stay away from this blog for a couple of weeks.
Wilco, Malkin Bowl, August 20, 2007: Judy pulled the dirtiest (i.e., nicest) trick in the book to lure me to this show: She bought me a ticket when I was still officially on the fence! Granted, I had already booked a cheap, extremely early morning flight to Seattle for that same day, so it was no hardship to amend my plans. So long, "free" day in Seattle; hello, my first ever trip to Canada!
First things first: There was catching up to do, a beautiful baby girl to coo over, and gelato to eat, all of which we dispatched of at a decent rate before hitting Stanley Park. This venue, like the others in the Pacific Northwest for this tour, would hearken back to the Pines Theater in Northampton. That is, it was an outdoor space in a park. Judy explained that Malkin Bowl is often used for Shakespeare and other dramatic productions, and the stage was a slightly awkward fit for a rock show. Also, because of the day's rainfall, the band's equipment was pushed back under the roof, adding up to what felt like a chasm between the audience and the musicians.
Perhaps this rather large gulch separating us from the group led to my initial impressions of the show as starting off at a leisurely, unassuming pace. "Pot Kettle Black" is still fresh enough again that it's sure to prick up my ears, but it took "Too Far Apart" to blow our expectations out of the water. A quick check on Wilcobase shows that the last time the song was played was at one of my first Wilco shows ever, back in 2000.
Jeff claimed that the Wayback Machine wouldn't be in operation anymore that night, and that song alone might've buoyed us through the rest of the show. However, the band instead broke out "Red-Eyed and Blue/I Got You," which was a first for me with this lineup, followed by "Monday," though Jeff forgot the lyrics and we were of absolutely no use to him (Paul, because he didn't project enough; me because I never remember lyrics under pressure).
Of course, one of the bigger questions for us was Nels and his recent bout with the chicken pox. Earlier reports indicated that he was well and as incendiary as ever, and I'm happy to corroborate those claims. He hasn't missed a beat--or, rather, a lick.
Richard Swift opened the show with a short set: only 25 minutes or so, encompassing just a half dozen songs. I'd seen part of his show earlier this year and liked what I heard of his brand of singer/songwriter-based material. Without a full band backing him, the songs were not quite as powerful, though his single supporting player filled in nicely on banjo, guitar, keyboard, and backing vocals.
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