Before Wilco's gig in Kansas City even began, we'd already driven 8-plus hours through four states, picked up three more delightful travel companions, learned the pleasures of hawk spotting on the plains, shopped for adorable galoshes, and scarfed down delicious barbecue--all in a day's work for the rock tourist.
Wilco, Crossroads, October 13, 2007: Wanna know how great the Kansas City show was? Consider this: Though the squirrelly queue procedures gave us hives and we were stuck behind a 10-foot-deep pit filled with about 100 audience members who had forked out for $75 VIP tickets, we loved the gig! It helped that the VIPs were actual enthusiastic fans, as opposed to bored, spoiled industry folk, so it was hard to resent them. But truly, it came down to the boisterous energy (which Jeff himself characterized as "infectious") bouncing between the band and the audience.
This was my first time ever in Kansas City, much less the state of Missouri, and ordinarily, I'd set the scene with random observations and maybe even a rationalization or two. But this is no time to be coy. In short, this show featured one of the more surprising setlists I've heard from Wilco in a while. Not that you'll catch me complaining about the continued inclusion of, say, "Spiders," but it's impossible to not get excited by the airing of the older tracks. Joining the now customary "Too Far Apart" were three more tracks from A.M. As Brianne and I noted after the show, Sky Blue Sky--the album the band is ostensibly promoting--clocked in at five tracks, or only one more than the debut album, tonight.
According to WilcoBase, I was privy to "Casino Queen" with this lineup a few years ago, though I can't recall it. However, I'm pretty sure this is the first time I've ever heard this particular crew do either "Box Full of Letters" or "Pick Up the Change." As you might expect, "Box Full of Letters" and especially "Casino Queen" enjoyed a huge guitar injection, while "Pick Up the Change" picked up more keyboards. But details, shmetails--they were great additions, the kind that make me think I can continue to see this band for a lot longer.
Elsewhere during the show, we got a bunch of jokes at the expense of Elton John (who was breaking in the brand-new arena down the block the same night), enjoyed a fireworks display overhead, and shielded our ears from the cries of the crowd's reigning scream queen. Frankly, I pay an alarming amount of attention to Nels, but when he's draping over his shoulders a flannel shirt thrown onstage by an audience member, hopping over to the other side of the stage to join John in hyperactive glee, or simply drawing out those magical chords from his guitar (all of which made Jeff smile, by the way), he's a sight to behold, and his enjoyment is indicative of the playful streak infusing the entire group these days.
Andrew Bird opened once again, but solo this time. Before the show, Sam informed me that the phonograph-looking contraption onstage is actually a Leslie cabinet turned inside out--mystery solved! Andrew's music lost some of its nuances without the backing band, but at the same time, his own abilities came to the fore, as you realized it was just Andrew making all that glorious noise.
p.s. Look, Tom, pictures of the back of people's heads!
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