Allow me this indulgent proposition: There are, in fact, parallels between us humble rock tourists and the rock stars that we follow. Take away the entourage, the adoring fans, the paycheck, the performance, and the catering to every whim and we're mirror images. Well, no, that's not true, but I can assure you that we enjoyed our day off, so to speak, before Wilco's show at the Royal Theatre in Victoria, British Columbia.
Wilco, Royal Theatre, February 12, 2010: As our local guide pointed out, Victoria easily qualifies as a tertiary market--two of my favorite words as a rock tourist. In case we doubted her judgement, the ferry ride provided ample proof; thus marks my first journey to a concert that requires a boat. My only regret is that we didn't get to town in time--or meet the dress code--to partake in the Empress Hotel's legendary high tea service.
I don't want to get too much into the sitting-vs.-standing debate, but I have to report that we were reprimanded twice for our exuberance. The first accuser bagged the quote of the night; after we, er, shot up for "Shot in the Arm," then sat down again (come on, it was "At Least That's What You Said"), she requested that we not stand up for the rest of the show because "they already gave you one song." I didn't know there's a quota for fun!
The other critic, however, employed a classically passive-aggressive tone, posing it as a sage suggestion instead of an actual request. Mind you, this was after the show ended; we hadn't heard a peep from him all evening. I'm not saying we would've listened, but his post facto appeal capped off a gig filled with schizo audience reactions (standing ovations, followed by sedate sitting during the actual songs).
Enough of the griping, though--after some reflection, I grudgingly admit that this may have been the best concert of the run. I say "grudgingly" only because of my preference for GA shows, no offense to the companions or the setting. The fact that Nels wore personalized monogrammed Air Jordans instead of his usual steel-toe rock boots secured this gig's place in Wilco history, but fortunately, other highlights awaited.
From our seats, at third row center, the sound and visuals were spot-on. The intros and spotlights were perfectly timed in the "Wilco (The Song)," and I heard keyboard details from Mike that were completely new to me, such as the lovely touch he shows off on "You Are My Face." Every musical twist in "Broken Arrow" came through loud and clear, and as a bonus, I listened to it in the company of a thrilled and appreciative Canadian seat mate.
On a purely technical level, Victoria surpassed Portland, but the set itself bettered Seattle's showing. Without a curfew hanging over their head, the band whipped out two encores that kept most of the crowd on its feet from "Spiders" on. Even the audience's clapping stayed mainly in time. Also, I welcome any encore that works in tracks from Being There. The night can't end late enough whenever you see your favorite band, but by the evening's conclusion, it felt like we'd seen a comprehensive show, highlighting the group's full talents, if not its discography.
Jeff stated how much the band loved the area and promised they would return to Victoria, but with a caveat: It would be for vacation, not a concert. I think the locals will join me in hoping that he was kidding. However, I'll take his testimonial as tacit agreement that, yes, Victoria is worth the journey by sea.
For the food porn portion of this post, I'll include a photo of our breakfast in town the next morning. Americans, you may be pleased to know that the proportions on these pastries could put even us to shame.
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