Monday, August 2, 2010
To say that our little blog called Speakers in Code is a fan of Wilco would be quite an understatement. Besides pulling our name from a line in Wilco's "Can't Stand It," we're all devoted road followers of the Chicago-based band; I've seen their shows in six different cities, I've seen Jeff Tweedy solo shows, and I even recently placed a "Wilco Now." bumper sticker on my car for all the world to see.
Wilco Now. If only the world could be that simple.
So when I heard that the band would be performing their final Midwest show of 2010 in South Bend, at a minor league baseball park, you could say that got my attention. I hadn't seen a full Wilco show in over two years; their slot at last year's Farm Aid in St. Louis was more of a teaser, if anything. So, yeah, I had to get to South Bend.
But as my friend and I found out, getting to South Bend from St. Louis wasn't easy! There was traffic, construction on I-55, and long waits at toll road stops. There was also a little thing called a different time zone that almost got the best of us, so much that we were greeted by "Sunken Treasure," Wilco's first song of the evening, as we were walking toward the ballpark (if you're wondering, yes, it was loud enough that you easily could have enjoyed the show from the parking lot, if you're into that sort of thing).
But you don't drive seven plus hours to listen and wonder. You travel to be there. To see and to feel; to be part of something.
And seeing Wilco in the summer while you're standing in someone's outfield is a casual experience. There are no nudie suits worn by the band; Jeff Tweedy even wore a t-shirt on stage, a first for my eyes. Wilco in a baseball park presented the band a perfect atmosphere for gentler songs like "Either Way," "Forget the Flowers," "She's A Jar," and a somewhat shocking rendition of "Say You Miss Me," performed for the first time since May of 2008.
A Wilco show, though, as you probably already know, is not a snooze fest. In fact, these days, I find myself waiting for the next thundering Nels Cline solo, and he brought many. "Impossible Germany" has become a centerpiece in Wilco's set, so much that a spotlight shone on Cline for a few minutes during his guitar wizardry. Cline often plays as if is body is being set on fire -- every muscle is seemingly convulsing while delivering the goods to his fans. He's carved out quite a role for himself.
And then there's Tweedy, who was quite chatty during the two plus hour show. He voice got a bit crazy at the end of "Bull Black Nova," as he shouted "Pick up!" He brought up his fear of pigeons crapping in his mouth, a funny jab at the recent Kings of Leon fiasco. He delightfully let the audience sing (almost) all the words to "Jesus, Etc.," which worked quite well. He led the band during a difficult cover choice, Buffalo Springfield's "Broken Arrow," a "theatrical" tune that has got to be a chore to perform. He joked about Glenn Kotche's broken toe, which didn't keep the drummer seated before the main-set closer, "I'm The Man Who Loves You," when Kotche stood up and saluted his band and the crowd.
Personally, though, all of this took a back seat to hearing "Can't Stand It" and the lyrics, "speakers are speaking in code," under the sky blue South Bend sky. It's times like those when I realize how beautiful live music is, and how much of a joy it can be to write about it. All of us, right then, were speaking in code. Wilco code.
It's just that simple.
Ashes of American Flags
I Am Trying To Break Your Heart
Bull Black Nova
You Are My Face
Company In My Back
A Shot in the Arm
Side With The Seeds
She's A Jar
Say You Miss Me
Forget The Flowers
Box Full of Letters
Can't Stand It
You Never Know
Heavy Metal Drummer
I'm The Man Who Loves You
Broken Arrow [Buffalo Springfield]
Airline To Heaven
The Late Greats
Red-Eyed and Blue>
I Got You (At The End of the Century)
Thank You Friends [Big Star]