Originally, only Wilco's Berkeley and Los Angeles dates were on the docket, but then a great rate to Seattle popped up, which pretty much sewed up Portland too. Along the way, Judy went behind my back to lure me to Vancouver (thanks!), and Paul magically summoned up awesome seats for Santa Barbara. After all that, Denver didn't seem so outlandish. Totally justified, right?
Wilco, Fillmore Auditorium, Sept. 1-2, 2007: I love a multiple-night stand by a good band, so one by my favorite group is golden, and it's something Wilco doesn't do often--especially in a general admission venue--these days. Never mind that the Fillmore Auditorium in Denver bears little resemblance to my beloved Fillmore (the original) in San Francisco; it was somewhat of a relief to be in a club setting again after all those outdoors shows.
But at the start, the signs were ominous. We tramped in from the hot, humid pavement to a hot, humid club seemingly crammed with drunken assholes who were either whooping inappropriately or trying to cop a feel. OK, that's a broad generalization based on two obnoxious individuals in the front row, and in the case of the loudmouth, several other audience members were united in trying to get him to shut the fuck up. Richard Swift in his opening set was also subject to the asshole's ridiculous outbursts, but he handled him pretty well.
By the time Wilco took the stage, order--or at least what passes as such at a typical rock show--had been restored, and we could comfortably fix our attention on the band. For this first outing, we heard a couple of rarer tracks: "Radio Cure," the song that was, for me, the earliest indicator of the transformations Nels would wrought not only to Wilco's back catalog but eventually to gestating titles as well; and "How to Fight Loneliness," which hasn't excited me in a while, but with its seductive beat, it made for a great transition into "Spiders" tonight.
I did catch a Wilco double-header in May, and there wasn't a whole lot of variation. However, I'm not sure it counts, as it wasn't for an American audience, and it was early in the tour. Regardless, I'm open to possibilities, even the confounding ones.
My concerns proved groundless, as the band kicked out a keen complement to the first night's show, with surprises in the setlist and from the players themselves. The requisite showcase tracks were further bolstered by the thinner but more dedicated crowd. Remember that "Impossible Germany" veneration I threatened in the first post of this tour? You're getting it now because the version tonight was one for the ages; I don't know if it had to do with Nels's recovery, but his guitarwork exceeded its typical elegance at the Fillmore Auditorium; I could've ridden that melody back to San Francisco, I think. The best part? Even when Nels finishes his solo, you still have the payload of Jeff and Pat's interplay awaiting.
Nels also took the (prat)fall twice in the show: first at the end of "Walken," when he fell off his stool, then during "Spiders" when he jumped from his table of implements. The drop to the stage isn't exactly precipitous, but his descent was complicated by the musical cue he had to hit between flight and landing. Thus, once again, we found Nels on his back as he and the band played on. From our side of the stage, all we could see were a pair of steel-toed boots and stripey socks sticking out behind the monitors, but any resemblance to the Wicked Witch of the West stopped there.
The lesser played "What Light" (but no "Either Way" for either show) made the cut tonight, and Being There representation fell to "Forget the Flowers" and "Red-Eyed and Blue/I Got You." Even the previous two albums yielded unexpected choices in "Company in My Back" and "Poor Places/Reservations."
One of the bigger musical twists of the night came from an unexpected source: Mermaid Avenue. "Hesitating Beauty" is not a personal favorite, and at one point, it was the tune most likely to make me grit my teeth. But Nels went to town on this one, at first staying faithful to the song's twangy flavor but adding a layer of his patented frenzied fretwork and maybe forging a new genre (noisefolk?) in the process. Even the rest of the band was moved enough to look at him in astonishment, almost as if hearing him for the first time.
"California Stars" brought out departing openers Richard Swift and his right-hand man Casey Foubert. This effortless tune was a good match for the two players, especially Casey, who (with some encouragement) dashed off the best adaptation of the melody that I heard on the tour (sorry, Bill Frisell and Peter Buck). The performance capped off a great two-night stretch for Richard and Casey; they sounded amazing at the Fillmore, much more so than they did at any of the big outdoor venues on the rest of this tour. The second night, they even tried a brand-new song.
I'm home now for a few days, and this blog will eventually return to concert reports by bands other than Wilco or that other guy I like so much, though not immediately. In fact, September should be pretty good around these parts, so keep checking back. And, as always, thanks for reading.
» back in your old neighborhood
» a gift given accidentally
» don't let anyone say it's wrong
» much too busy to worry
» waiting for a postcard
» i wasn't that night