In school, we were taught that if California were its own country, it would have something like the eighth largest GDP in the world, and man, I fully grasped my home state's size and influence with this round of rock tourism. Wilco played nine dates here alone, and that doesn't cover extra engagements, such as Conan and Largo. You could amortize that over the two years they regularly take to return to these shores, but that's still a lot of shows. With six of those gigs already under my belt, I probably didn't need to go to the Mondavi Center in Davis. Then again, what's one more?
Wilco, Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, February 1, 2012: Technically, Davis isn't part of the Bay Area. Located about 90 minutes outside of San Francisco, it's closer to the Central Valley, maybe even the delta region. I've trekked to nearby Sacramento for a handful of shows, but those trips are rare. I have to give it up for the hearty souls who drive down I-80 to San Francisco and Oakland for their entertainment needs. I can't even take the 22 Fillmore across town sometimes!
Ordinarily, it'd take a lot more than the likes of the Mondavi Center -- one of those well-designed, acoustically calibrated auditoriums that have a way of sucking the fun out of the room -- to lure me to Davis, but it was hard to resist the combo of friends and vacation time. I apologize for the ill-informed detour to Bouchon, but I'm glad we got something for our troubles. Also on the bright side, as befits a building named after a major vinter, the pours were exceedingly generous at the Mondavi bar. Cin cin!
Though the early signs were discouraging, our sour grapes quickly transformed into delicious balsamic vinegar. My seat at the edge of stage right became an asset, as it meant I could stand up for the majority of the show without blocking anyone's view or hearing any complaints from the rows behind. I could see a handful of people trying to do the same in other areas, but it might've been hard to justify being on your feet for the first stretch of the show. No words were exchanged with the audience for a good six or seven songs, and I think it took a dumb "Freebird" request before Jeff veered from the script. I agree with the singer -- that concert cliche deserved a good dose of pepper spray.
Other awkward exchanges followed, including a short dialog with the couple in the front-center who stepped away in unison somewhere in the middle of the set. "Capitol City" resulted in a confusing exchange, when a small sampling of the audience started clapping during one of the instrumental bridges toward the end. First of all, their timing was off, but Jeff took it as tepid approval of the tune and, with mild sarcasm, refused the follow-up approval -- that is, the real applause. More endearing was the fellow in the front, called out for having the most pens in his pockets of any fan Jeff had ever seen. The two had a sweet moment when Ramon (the fan) gifted Jeff with one of his pens -- no words on its vintage, however. (Gel? Ballpoint? Color? Fine point? Extra fine? Your guess is as good as mine.)
I can't recall exactly when the crowd collectively chose to get out of their chairs, but as we approached the encore, I could see the familiar signs of fans leaving their seats and crowding the aisles to get close to the stage. I made my move during the encore, climbing over the seat to take my more customary spot and snapping -- I swear! -- my only concert shot of the entire series of shows. All night, my ears had been filled with the sound mix from Nels's monitor; if I managed to blow what's left of my hearing by crowding around Nels's rig in Davis, I'd still chalk it up as a triumph of art.
I apologize to anyone who's read through these accounts and noticed the lack of commentary on the music, but (1) I don't sufficiently possess the technical vocabulary to do justice to the performances, and (2) it's hard picking out the finer details of seven consecutive shows the week after the fact. I love the pop tracks from The Whole Love, and the two new art pieces exceeded my expectations. They have to be experienced live, where their discrete levels and dimensions become apparent. I'm especially in awe of "Art of Almost," and I still can't believe the disparate elements somehow work as a whole.
As for the older songs -- dare I say classics -- they're not exactly the same these days. I noticed the likes of "Handshake Drugs" and "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart" have been edited somewhat, maybe to make way for the new sprawlers and surely to accommodate as many selections as possible from the band's double-digit discography.
Early in the travels, I composed whole dissertations in my head about the peaks and valleys, soft contours and hard turns, brute force and subtle whispers that can comprise a single Wilco tune, much less the entire arc of a show. But no one needs to put up with that hot air. The point is I've missed this band and the adventures, discoveries, and camaraderie that go along with these excursions. At this point, I can't predict if a trek of this breadth awaits me in the future, but I can always look at this stretch as a reminder of how much I had and how much fun may still be in store.
» tired of being exposed to the cold
» one sunday morning
» my mother's sister's husband's brother
» can't stand it
» thank you for nothing at all
» so flattered by fate