Wilco @ Verizon Wireless Theater
It’s been a long three years since Chicago alt-rockers Wilco last played a show here in Houston, but when Jeff Tweedy and the boys stepped foot on stage last Friday night at Verizon Wireless Theater, it was more like a meeting with an really good friend you barely get to see rather than the long awaited return it felt like during the days leading up to the show. For my seventh (I think?) Wilco show, I was even more excited than the rest as I now had the opportunity to tote along my camera and stand front and center for the first three songs. I’ve been dying to photograph Tweedy in specific for quite some time, so to finally get that opportunity was out of this world. On top of the photography gig, they pulled off quite the spectacular show with a great setlist to boot.
Read all about the show after the jump
Words and photos by Jim “Eggs” Bricker
By just looking at the set-list, you could tag it as a stock Wilco show, and I’ll give it that to a certain extent. If you were one of the lucky ones in attendance, though, you would definitely not call it regular by any means. The songs were the same, but the playing was some of the best of the boys I’ve heard to date. The first burner of the night was the newer track “Bull Black Nova” which was followed closely by the first of many emotionally challenging tunes of the night “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart” from their critically acclaimed breakout album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. “Kamera,” “Handshake Drugs” and “One Wing” were somewhat standard fare, but the return to form on “War On War” found guitarist Nels Cline stepping out of the box for the first time of the night (and definitely not the last by far). From there on out, the Church of Wilco was officially in session, and Pastor Tweedy found himself in front of a few thousand adoring followers who were hanging on to his every word (even if they were terrible Mess With Texas jokes…).
“A Shot In The Arm,” one of only five songs pre-Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, and by far one of the strongest performances of the evening, came next and led into A Ghost Is Born‘s opener “At Least That’s What You Said.” The break-up portion of the evening continued with one of the most welcome surprises of the night in “Via Chicago,” which I know made a few people around me a bit emotional to say the least. “Impossible Germany” followed, and while I’ve never really liked the beginning vocal part of the song, the triple guitar attack at the end of the song from Tweedy, Cline and auxiliary guitarist Pat Sansone is one of the best I’ve ever heard, and live is unmatched. Continuing with the energy from the previous tune, the clap-a-long of the evening came with the Woodie Guthrie penned “Airline To Heaven.” Fan-favorite “Jesus, etc.” came next which was more than appropriate after the crowd interaction and participation from “Airline” just moments before. The one-two Ghost punch of “Theologians” and “Hummingbird” were both very welcome to me, but seemed to be inappropriately placed in the setlist. All didn’t matter any more with the opening notes of “Walken” and the set-closing version of one of my absolute favorite Wilco songs, “I’m The Man Who Loves You.”
Knowing that Wilco never hold back when it comes to encores, we hunkered down for the hit portion of the evening, as well as the best playing by the band of the night. Opening with “The Late Greats” was an odd choice, but brought the energy level back up or beyond where it was at the end of the set. The song I was waiting for all night, “Misunderstood” was beautiful and intense, and the the perfect pre-cursor to the all out jam of “Spiders (Kidsmoke).” “Heavy Metal Drummer” was the song to compliment the rest of the encore, and could’ve easily closed out the show, but with Tweedy feeling kindy frisky, they jumped into the rocker “I’m A Wheel” to finish out the encore. Everyone thought that this was definitely the end of the set, but continued to cheer as if the band were still on stage. Taking a cue from the obvious audience approval, they came back to the stage one more time for another Guthrie tune “Hoodoo Voodoo,” a song I’ve seen them close out over half the shows I’ve seen. It’s a perfect show stopper that features plenty of theatrics from the guitar department, and left the audience incredibly satisfied walking out of the cavernous venue.
While it wasn’t the best Wilco show I’ve seen, it was definitely better and more full of energy than the last time they played in Houston. I left a happy man, and in the middle of a great week of shows, this one definitely stood out above the rest. You’re welcome back any time Wilco, please just don’t make it another three years!
Check out all of my shots after the setlist.
Ashes of American Flags
Bull Black Nova
I Am Trying to Break Your Heart
War On War
A Shot in the Arm
At Least That’s What You Said
Airline To Heaven
I’m the Man Who Loves You
The Late Greats
Heavy Metal Drummer
I’m a Wheel