Monday, September 19, 2016

he slept on a mountain

Wilco, I can't quit you -- as if the last decade-plus of posts hasn't proven so already. When the band added one more show in the Bay Area, a week after the Fillmore residency, plans were set once again.

Wilco, Sound Summit Festival, Sept. 17, 2016: This day bore all the hallmarks of being a terrible decision, not unlike the William and Mary show from years back, when we started out late with very little fanfare, only to catch a fairly cookie-cutter gig. Fortunately, I was wrong, and Oakland International's busy Saturday, my terrible navigation, and Marin's stereotypical crowd couldn't ruin it.

I'm not a huge fan of festival gigs (duh), and we had every reason to believe this would be an obligatory appearance by the band -- that is, the hits versus more obscure tracks, albeit in the current semi-acoustic Schmilco arrangement. Instead, it was an entirely different animal from the Fillmore shows, most tellingly in Nels' electric setup. At the beginning, it sounded like even Nels was reacquainting himself with his pedals and switches, as the notes came off hotter and louder than usual for the first few songs. Overall, it was the right choice for an outdoor gig.

On the whole, we got only a couple of songs that went missing at the Fillmore shows, but the ones that made the cut were welcome, particularly "Handshake Drugs" and "Art of Almost." I've even missed "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart," which I thought was a shoo-in for the 9/11 show (because I'm into setlist no-brainers). I'm starting to think Star Wars will become the forgotten record in Wilco's discography, and the Bay Area got only two shows on that tour: one at the Independent, which few could get into; and Outside Lands, which is -- well -- a festival set. Hearing tracks from that record seems almost like a treat these days, especially when it's the "Cold Slope"/"King of You" sequence.

Wilco, the Fillmore, Sept. 6-7, 9-11, 2016

In one welcome sign of the return of the electric set, Wilco lined up for the four-guitar attack often -- a sight I've missed. Also, Jeff actually had room to walk over to Pat for their collaborative passage on "Impossible Germany," in case you were worried about them ditching that move.

Throughout the show, Jeff was in a great mood. He laughed at his own mistakes, such as forgetting a line here and there, and mocked the toll the altitude supposedly took on his body. Honestly, everything about the show was loose and open, and Jeff seemed to feed off Marin's trademark casual vibe.

Wilco's set was immediately preceded by Los Lobos, which brought up Nels for a guest spot, while a few other band members watched from the side stage. Wilco too turned to guest players: Greg Leisz (who had sat in with Los Lobos), Bill Frissell, and local mainstay Bob Weir. They hit Woody Guthrie for the first couple of numbers, with Nels quickly teaching the chords to Bill before the start of the song. I couldn't see Greg Leisz from where I stood, but I could hear his slide as clear as a whistle. I urge you to check your record collection and take inventory of how many albums he's on. I promise you'll find lots to love.

Last week, "California Stars" with Julian Lage was so damn good, but this night's version was no slouch either. Bill Frisell put in a great showing, what I could hear of Greg Leisz was lovely, and even Bob Weir got in his licks. But just as I thought I knew what was coming, they changed it up and closed it out with "Tomorrow Never Knows" -- aka the best opening drumbeat of all time.

Some time ago, I watched Jon Brion offhandedly advise one of his collaborators at Largo to play an E -- then they launched into this same song. Thus, I'm quite familiar with the improv possibilities of the tune, and anyone who's been to a Largo show with me knows how much I love it.

Onstage, the eight musicians had a ball with the song. Glenn was the star, no doubt, but all the guitarists dug in for their segments, and Nels in particular went nuts with his switches and pedals. Bob Weir not only took one of the guitar leads, he sang too. I'm team #neverdead, but I've grown to expect Bob showing up at local events. I've even seen him sing the national anthem at a Giants game or two. You could almost imagine him riding his bike over to the fest, guitar and guitar case strapped on his back, but it seemed only natural that he'd step in tonight.

That'll probably be my last Wilco show of the year, and it was a great one to go out on. But until the next time, let me put in this request: more Beatles songs always!

See also:
» always hated normal american kids
» i'd be lying if i said it wasn't easy
» everyone wastes my time

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