Now we're talking -- this is a place I know well, where I've fostered lots of great memories, and am bracingly familiar with all the rules about lining up and getting in. If you don't mind the (euphemism alert!) colorful foot traffic around 6th and Market, the Warfield is a prime spot to catch a show, and it's about time Wilco played once more within San Francisco city limits.
Wilco, the Warfield, January 29, 2012: How has it been 10 years since Wilco last played the Warfield?! A lot has changed since then -- er, in the world at large, I suppose, but you don't come here for socio-political analysis, so let's bring it back to a narrower focus. Not only has the band undergone well-documented shifts among its personnel in that time, but I've experienced something similar in my own insignificant way. Where I once had to drag kind, generous, well-intentioned but ultimately indifferent friends to the shows, I can now look forward to joining a roster of self-selecting nutjobs braced for this choice slab of Mid-Market. The dream is real!
Then again, maybe the differences aren't so dramatic. For one thing, the fully functioning smoke machines brought me right back to the hazy photos I took with my film camera back in 2002; it's probably a good thing the band now enforces a no-camera policy. Also, I thought the "Sunken Treasure" opener sounded familiar. I brushed it off as a blurred memory from more recent gigs at the Greek Theatre, but the Internet has confirmed my suspicions -- according to Wilcobase, the band had kicked off with the same title back in 2002.
After the lively show in San Jose, I was surprised by Wilco's moodier presentation for San Francisco. We were remarking on it among ourselves when Jeff spoke up and admitted to a "morbid" set. Not that he disavowed it, nor did we expect the band to suddenly turn into a pop machine -- they wouldn't be Wilco and we wouldn't be fans if it was all sunshine and light. Still, it wasn't what I expected of the group's return to one of its most faithful and long-standing fan bases outside of Chicago.
Despite this slightly downtrodden setlist, the band managed to pull out a bunch of tunes I wanted to hear, including "Either Way," which is one of my favorite titles from the current lineup. Once more, the audience chimed in beautifully; trust me, when you live in San Francisco, it's not unusual to tell yourself maybe the sun will shine today and the clouds will roll away. I always hope "Either Way" will enjoy a more regular spot in the rotation and not become a forgotten track -- I'll take this as a good sign.
From a purely selfish standpoint, "Misunderstood" came a day late, but I liked that they threw in a couple of A.M. tracks for the longtime fans surely among the throngs. Additionally, the "Laminated Cat"/"Impossible Germany" combo could be a masterclass in fantastic guitar licks.
The rocking tracks came out later in the show, but once again, "The Lonely 1" iced the evening. It was a lovely touch at the Palladium, but it better matched the mood of this often gray and foggy town.
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