On Sunday July 8 Wilco played their biggest headlining gig to date. Held at Fifth Third Ballpark in Geneva, IL, there were approximately 15,000 fans on hand to witness what may have been the finest Wilco show I’ve ever seen. To open the gig Wilco invited fellow city dwellers The Congregation and Andrew Bird, making the show a true Chicago affair.
The Congregation kicked things off at 5:30. Their set was like an electric shock, getting people on the field dancin’ and the people in the stands stomping their feet. Gina Bloom’s vocals, which we already know are amazing, sounded spectacular when they hit the crowd. Charlie Layne’s bluesy guitar solos were damn near literal facemelters, and although I know he must have been dying from the heat in his suit he looked cool as ice.
They played a good mix of stuff from their debut EP Not For Sleepin’ as well as new stuff from their forthcoming album Right Now Everything. In particular I really enjoyed these live versions of “He’s Gone,” “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” and “Right Now Everything.” The horn section sounded great, and i think The Congregation probably gained about 8,000 fans in their thirty minute set.
The sound system, often a let down at outdoor events, was awesome, and able to deliver on the high and low ends with minimal distortion.
After their set there was a short break of about fifteen minutes and then Andrew Bird room the stage. At this point I sat down in the outfield and listened to a crowd go crazy for a guy whistling. His set went about an hour and fifteen minutes.
Wilco took the stage just after 8 and opened with “Dawned On Me.” I was a little disappointed that they didn’t open with the 13 minute “One Sunday Morning,” but considering the rest of the set I’m willing to take that slight change from the past couple times we’ve seen them. As the sun started to make its way behind the concourse and the band moved into “War On War,” I started to get a really good feeling about this show.
I’ve seen Wilco something like ten or eleven times now, and I honestly think this show topped them all. There was a distinct moment when this decision was made, and it happened fairly early. A three song stretch where they played “Impossible Germany,” “Spiders (Kidsmoke),” and “Handshake Drugs” in arrangements that I’d never heard before displayed a band that is constantly changing and somehow continuing to improve. The version of “Impossible Germany” that they played was about eleven minutes long and it featured a good dose of Nels Cline doing what Nels Cline does best-play guitar solos that most mortals can’t even dream of playing.
The setlist was pretty note-perfect other than the one omission I mentioned. We got five songs off the new record, five off Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, and a nice mix of older stuff including a new arrangement of “Laminated Cat” that sounded awesome. Of the ten times I’ve seen Wilco, four have come in the last year. The setlists have been different each time, and it is to Wilco’s credit that they keep making little changes to the songs so the fans don’t get tired of hearing the same thing over and over.
I noticed that Tweedy was a bit more excited and happier than I’ve ever seen him. He was smiling through most of the set, and he kept the stage banter to a minimum but you could tell everyone up there was having a good time. I don’t think there was any shock that they sold out the event, but knowing that they can do it without much outside help had to be a nice confidence boost for them. Since they started dbpm they’ve made all the right moves, and it paid off with the sellout.
They played two encores totaling seven songs, including “Art Of Almost,” which I assumed would end the show entirely. It’s such a show stopper I couldn’t imagine anything beyond it, but they kept going with “Standing O” and “Shot In The Arm.” And that was just the first encore. In all it was a 26-song set that lasted just over two hours.
WXRT broadcast the whole show and I wouldn’t be surprised if they replay it soon. Check out their site for updates. Many thanks to all involved in putting this show together. It was a fantastic night that will go down in the narrative of Wilco history as one of the greatest shows ever.
01 – Dawned On Me
02 – War On War
03 – I Might
04 – I Am Trying to Break Your Heart
05 – Box Full of Letters
06 – Handshake Drugs
07 – Spiders (Kidsmoke)
08 – Impossible Germany
09 – Born Alone
10 – Laminated Cat
11 – Side with the Seeds
12 – Say You Miss Me
13 – Candyfloss
14 – Jesus, Etc.
15 – Hate It Here
16 – Whole Love
17 – I’m Always In Love
18 – Heavy Metal Drummer
19 – I’m the Man Who Loves You
20 – Via Chicago
21 – Art of Almost
22 – Standing O
23 – Shot in the Arm
24 – California Stars
25 – The Late Greats
26 – Hoodoo Voodoo
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