Growing up, I spent many summers in Southern California, hanging out a week or more at my aunt and uncle's house far away from all the cool places I read about. More specifically, I whiled away those seasons practically right next door to Pomona. I never would've guessed, though, that Wilco would end up here all these years later and that I'd be in attendance for their show at the renovated Fox Theater.
Wilco, Fox Theater, June 20, 2009: As I write this, on the day the new Wilco album officially hits stores, I've heard the record exactly once (but spent much of that time giggling and chatting with friends), and thanks to an apparently defunct hard drive, I'll have to wait a few days more before I can get the tracks on my iPod. Additionally, I haven't seen the entire band perform since last October. Who am I kidding, though? This mask of moderation won't hold up after I file a week's worth of concert reports, starting with Wilco's arrival in Pomona.
Wilco's extensive tour schedule, combined with my frequent attendance at those gigs, means that I don't expect radical reinventions every time, but with a new album looming, this show would inevitably hold some changes. The most obvious developments were the new titles, five in all, only two of which I knew: "Wilco (The Song)" from The Colbert Report performance and "One Wing" from the last year's Alaska tour dates.
The latter certainly sounded more polished a year on, but not so different from those early renditions. However, "Bull Black Nova" and "You Never Know," both shaping up as Wilco concert staples, were relatively new to me, and I was hooked instantly. Also, "Deeper Down" made its live debut, which also means we saw Nels pulling double duty on lap steel and that little swan of a guitar. I look forward to hearing them all for some time to come.
Those older tunes, though, didn't remain static. I noticed the extended coda on "Misunderstood," for example, and some subtle reworkings in "Radio Cure." On the other hand, "Impossible Germany" took an unexpected turn when Jeff's guitar didn't work for about half the song, leaving Nels to draw out the longest solo he may have ever pulled off for that particular title. Then again, I've seen him play for 45 minutes (and more) straight--it's certainly within his abilities.
The technical problems were eventually solved, and the song floated to its usual graceful ending, but something else happened in the span of the tune. Maybe dodging that bullet opened them somehow, because the energy level kicked up not long after that. Before the night was over, we'd hear both "classic" tunes ("Pick Up the Change," "Can't Stand It") and more recent releases ("Hate It Here," "Hummingbird"), sing "Happy Birthday" to the 40-year-old windmilling guitarist, listen to some kids shredding, and watch the monitor tech bound across the back of the stage while throttling a cowbell. I don't know how else to quantify it, except to say that it was a fantastic, spirited night and a great return for this band (that never really goes away).
This was not the Pomona I knew as a kid, and in a way, this was not necessarily the band I saw last fall. On neither count was this a bad thing; on the contrary, it was a delicious tease of the next week's agenda.
Opening this show and the next two dates was Jonathan Wilson and his band. Their set in Pomona needed much editing, dragging out longer than the usual opening slot, though they tightened up a bit for the Wiltern gigs. The percussionist, however, won me over completely--I love the gourd!
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