by Hipster Hamster Hipster Hamster
February 23, 2010

February 13, 2009
Live City Yaletown (David Lam Park)
Vancouver, B.C

When I saw the lineup to get into Live City Yaletown, one of the venues temporarily erected by VANOC, my heart sank.  I had been excited about this show since before it was officially announced as part of the Live City free concert series, and the line—which snaked around an entire block—seemed to indicate that I wouldn’t be getting in.

“Curse the Olympics!” I started to think, ignoring the good things they had done for me (bringing Wilco to Vancouver; making the show free; bringing together hundreds [thousands?] of diverse people who otherwise would not be attending such a concert) and focusing on the negatives (a busy venue; the potential for non-fans ruining my concert experience by talking during the band’s set; expensive snacks).

Turns out my worries were for naught.  The lineup moved quickly, I made some pleasant conversation with the strangers in line around us, and, it turns out, enjoyed the show.

Now, if you’ve been paying attention, you may have noticed what I just did there.

That’s right: a parable.

Before the Olympics, a lot of people (myself included) were worried, skeptical, and even angry about the Games.  Now that they’ve begun, many of these people have found themselves caught up in the spirit of the whole thing, including the author of this review.

Yes, the Olympics cost a lot of money that would probably be better spent elsewhere, but they’re here, and they’ve brought a lot of pretty cool stuff along.  There was a moment seven songs into Wilco’s set that this fact really dawned on me.  When Jeff Tweedy sang

When the sun comes back
As we all can plainly see
Embracing the situation
Is our only chance to be free

It hit me that I was experiencing a very special moment. People in the crowd around me were speaking English, French, Chinese, German, and several Slavic and Eastern European languages I didn’t recognize, and they were all at the same concert as I was, to see the same band I wanted to see.  This confluence of cultures and peoples is one of the benefits I was talking about.  I embraced the Olympics, and decided that since the Games are happening, I might as well enjoy them.

As for the show itself?  It was pretty good.  The sound was surprisingly well mixed for an outdoor venue, especially a temporary one, and Jeff Tweedy and company played a diverse setlist, mixing old favorites like ”Jesus, Etc.” with cuts from their newest effort, Wilco (the Album).  Guitarist Nels Cline played some absolutely jaw-dropping solos, and the rest of the band played with all of the skill and synchronicity you would expect from one of indie rock’s premier groups.

There were a few chinks in the formidable rockers’ armor though. While varied, the set suffered from some pacing issues.  The band started off the show with the rambunctious and ecstatic “Wilco (the Song)” and followed it up with “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart.”  All of the emotion generated by “Wilco (the Song)” was lost in the slow, feedback-drenched buildup of the latter song, and these kinds of inconsistencies popped up sporadically throughout the rest of the set. The band also feels a lot more “classic rock” live than on record, as the hooks and choruses somehow seem bigger and more bloated on stage.  While the songs might translate better to a wide audience in this form, I found myself missing the meticulously crafted atmosphere present throughout the band’s records.

These complaints aside—and they aren’t deal-breakers by any stretch—the concert was great. I enjoyed myself, and came to terms with the Olympics.  Not bad, for a night’s work.

Setlist:

  1. “Wilco (The Song)”
  2. “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart”
  3. “Bull Black Nova”
  4. “You Are My Face”
  5. “One Wing”
  6. “A Shot In The Arm”
  7. “Side With The Seeds”
  8. “Jesus, Etc.”
  9. “Handshake Drugs”
  10. “Impossible Germany”
  11. “California Stars”
  12. “Misunderstood”
  13. “Spiders (Kidsmoke)”
  14. “Hummingbird”
  15. “You Never Know”
  16. “The Late Greats”
  17. “Hate It Here”
  18. “Walken”
  19. “I’m The Man Who Loves You”

Visit Wilco online: wilcoworld.net (where their discography can be streamed for FREE)  /  myspace.com/wilco

“Handshake Drugs” @ Live City, Vancouver, B.C

“Jesus Etc.” @ Live City, Vancouver, B.C

“I’m The Man Who Loves You” @ Live City, Vancouver, B.C

“War on War” on Late Show with David Letterman

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2 Responses to “Renegade Rock Review Vol. 15 – Wilco”

  1. [...] why those who missed out on Wilco’s free Olympic performance missed an unforgettable evening here or at [...]

  2. [...] a review I wrote for westcoastweasel.com – you can check it out here with added content – check it [...]

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