As you may have noticed, I go to great lengths to see Wilco, but sometimes I luck out and settle into a town for more than a day--say, for a Chicago residency or those multiple-night stands the band used to do at the Fillmore. This year, the extended roadshow landed a little closer to home, bringing Wilco to the Wiltern for three dates, and then some.
Wilco, the Wiltern, June 22, 23, and 25, 2009: With my deepest apologies to Vladimir Nabokov: Los Angeles, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul.
Gah, I love this city. Before the week was over, we'd nab tickets to a Page-Off, eat far too much delicious food (Kogi! Jitlada! Hugo's! Langer's!), and take our seats among the Tonight Show studio audience, to scratch the surface. Oh, and there was the matter of a trifecta of Wilco shows.
The temptation is to cast any of Wilco's stretched-out stays as a mini-residency and to see which rare cuts they'll dig out for the shows. After last year's blowout, they've proven they can play everything, but on a more practical note, it appears that they work from a general template for each tour.
Thus, though I nursed a vague hope that the West Coast would hear John Stirratt's "It's Just That Simple," I didn't really think it would happen--and in fact, it didn't. Instead, our reward came in such selections as "Shouldn't Be Ashamed," complete with a substantially reimagined solo by Nels, as well as "In a Future Age" and "Box Full of Letters," to name just a few.
I am, however, burying the lede, as the single event already reported all over the blogosphere is Feist's surprise appearance for the live debut of "You and I." I remember seeing Carla Bozulich sing "Forget the Flowers" with Wilco a number of years ago and Jeff remarking that it was a written as a duet, but they could never get anyone to sing it with them. Oh, how times have changed.
In some ways, Feist looked more at ease than Jeff, though he was clearly delighted with the collaboration. Then again, she's had a lot more experience jumping in and out of musical combos. Regardless, they charmed the room, and I felt so fortunate to have been there.
Speaking of stage presence, the strongest impressions I got from this show--confirmed further by the gigs to follow--had everything to do with the band's confidence and joy. For some time now, Wilco shows have included a heap of smiles, compliments, inside jokes, and hugs, but it's been easy to lose track of those lighter moments amid the band's towering musicianship. For these shows, though these elements remained, I think we saw one other aspect emerging: The band really has a frontman now. At the least, they're getting closer to it. Or in the words of Flanagan, "Tweedy's hair is fantastic."
There's so much else I could cover from these three days, but I'm already way behind on my blogging, so I have to skim over the singer as a pitchman, my favorite soloist of this swing, the guest percussionist, and extremely generous benefactors. (Also: Krycek!) As far as I'm concerned, though, Wilco and the Wiltern continue their winning streak.
» i've run out of metaphors