(all photos by Keith Klenowski)
I make a point to see Wilco as much as I can. If you have been reading this site at all over the past few years, you already know that. So when I heard about the band starting their current leg of the US tour with a show in Cincinnati, there was no way I was going to miss out. After all, it was close to the perfect storm for a show. The band had just returned from Spain and was fresh and ready to attack the United States together yet again. Plus, with a new album due out in just a few weeks, the new material from said album would certainly be making it’s way into this show, right?
While that question was answered early on, I cannot forget to mention local heroes Heartless Bastards who opened up the show. The Bastards returned home again to a loyal but seemingly distracted crowd on Friday night, playing an enthusiastic, but really short set. It felt like they did 5 songs, and that was it. I looked down at my
watch IPhone, and they did probably encompass 30 minutes of stage time, and I guess that is all they were allotted, but it felt rushed, not the first rushed moment of the night, I might add.
Wilco hit the stage right at 9pm sharp, brandishing the first song from the new record to start things off, “Wilco The Song” and the very appropriate image of a camel on drummer Glenn Kotche’s kick drum, the same beast that adorns the cover of the the new album. The band jumped from new song to Wilco live show staple “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart” which is not only a great tune, but properly allows Jeff to greet the audience with the lyric “what was I thinkin’ when I said…Hello”.
It seemed to go that way for quite a while to, at least with a new song, and then a familiar run of three songs. Although, lets be honest, the new stuff was almost as familiar to most in attendance as well, and even new ones like “Wilco The Song”, “One Wing”, and “Bull Black Nova” had lots of people singing along. The last of which was played to a full on red light atmosphere and was an absolute burner live. I’d imagine, if it is not already, “Bull Black Nova” will become the favorite song on this album for many Wilco fans.
The new stuff was familiar enough actually, that after the band played “Sonny Feeling” which is towards the end of the new album, I guess Jeff noticed not as many were singing along and after the song quipped “We are gonna come back here in a year and you will reallly wanna hear that one.” But despite the band sounding as good as ever, stage banter like that from Tweedy was held to a minimum, which is too bad, because it is one of the best things about a Wilco show. Jeff was in great spirits though, even doing several self-deprecating rock star poses throughout “Hummingbird”, which cracked everyone up. And the music was of course front and center as usual, and the setlist was just brilliant and it seemed that almost every band member had a moment in the sun.
Nels Cline for example, who for me, is hard to stop staring at during his guitar solos, seemed to levitate and get white eyed during his amazing solo on “Impossible Germany” and even broke out a double neck guitar later in the set as well. Drummer Glenn Kotche, who must be a physical wreck after these shows, was his usual self behind the kit, tearing through the two hour set, which included the live staple “Misunderstood” on which I was told later had “28 Nothings”. (Wilco fans know what I mean) Which led directly into the now epic live tune “Spiders”, which seemed to be every bit of the 10 minute song it is on A Ghost Is Born was as great of a set closer for the band that I have seen, and should probably always end a set actually, now that I think about it.
The band came back out for an encore, and I am always amused by the genuine excitement the audience feels when this happens. The 5 song encore was highlighted by the last two songs, “I’m The Man Who Loves You” into a fiery rendition of “I’m A Wheel” another Ghost Is Born underdog that needs to be played live more often. Although in no way did the set feel short, it was every bit of 2 hours, some of us Wilco fans are a bit spoiled and wanted more, but I heard that a Cincinnati curfew kept the band from playing another encore set and likely also kept Jeff’s stage banter light.
That said, the report from the field early on for this tour is that the new stuff fits in quite nicely alongside gems from previous records and as I have said in the past, this group of musicians is as good of a live band as there is today, do yourself a favor and see them live as soon as possible. I had a great time, if for no other reason than I got to share this experience with my 11 year old son, it was his first concert experience, and one I know I will not forget.
1. Wilco (the Song)
2. I Am Trying to Break Your Heart
3. Company In My Back
4. Bull Black Nova
5. You Are My Face
6. One Wing
7. Handshake Drugs
8. Side With the Seeds
9. A Shot In the Arm
10. At Least That’s What You Said
11. Sonny Feeling
12. Jesus, Etc.
13. Impossible Germany
14. California Stars
15. You Never Know
18. Spiders (Kidsmoke)
19. The Late Greats
20. Hate It Here
22. I’m the Man Who Loves You
23. I’m A Wheel