Wilco At The Peabody Opera House, 10/4/11: Review, Photos, Setlist

wilco-photos-review-setlist.jpg
Photo by Jason Stoff
Wilco | Nick Lowe
Peabody Opera House
October 4, 2011

Wilco kicked off an eight-song encore with "Via Chicago," a song against which I refuse to hear arguments. Not that there are many coming, at least from the thousands assembled in the instantly-sold-out Peabody last night -- it, like pretty much everything else during the band's two-hour set, was greeted with exultant cheers. It is so encouraging that there is a band capable of getting 4,000 people who probably don't agree on anything except Wilco to sing along en masse to such beautiful nonsense as "I am an American aquarium drinker."

Jeff Tweedy and bassist John Stirratt stood in spotlights before microphones, delivering the twisted love note of "Via Chicago" in delicate unison. And then, from nowhere, the rest of the band exploded, apocalyptic, mid-line, mid-beat even, a wall of noise and molten aggression. It's there on record to a much lesser extent, the discord creeping in, a quiet panic peering through tight seams. This, this was different, the demons tromping through the verse and gashing at souls before disappearing briefly back into the void of soft folk. Wilco, you will be glad to know, has not gotten all crumbly and simpering.


The tumult summoning Wilco back to the stage for an encore was a foregone conclusion. It seems like there's little the band can do lately that isn't a foregone conclusion: Wilco is in a very small group of rock groups aging relatively gracefully, riding on a blimp of a fanbase that will buy all its new albums regardless, that will snatch up tickets to the shows and buy out the limited edition concert poster before Wilco even takes the stage.

Meanwhile, the critical discourse on Wilco has lost its teeth, with thousands of voices divided more-or-less evenly between those longing for the old days and those blindly proselytizing for each effort with barely more persuasive ammunition than "Jeff Tweedy is smarter/cooler/better than the rest of us." Wilco's famous versatility makes all this very perplexing -- how can you have the same reaction to the clean lines and pleasing construction of "Impossible Germany" and the gnarled, ambitious, noisy mess that is "The Art Of Almost"?

Wilco, at the center of all this hulking chatter, seems remarkably content simply not to care much. Tweedy does exactly zero pandering, generally and also specifically last night. He was sure to clarify the cheers of "Welcome home!" by saying, a few songs later, "You know I'm not actually from St. Louis." But he's not shying away from commercial success, either -- The Whole Love can be purchased in about 40 different packages and bonus permutations, and the band did its share of (not at all unwelcome or undeserved) rock-and-roll posturing: windmill guitar chords, extended solos...Glenn Kotche even stood on his drum kit during the encore. And Tweedy certainly wasn't avoiding his St. Louis roots, name checking the old Keil Opera House, his three former record store bosses in the crowd, his family, the Cardinals ("I love sports ball"). How all this appears to its audience seems to be the last thing anyone in this band cares about.

With every imaginable plot line exhausted, we've decided to latch onto Wilco's choice to release The Whole Love on its own label, dBpm Records. The freedom from the shackles of Nonesuch has instilled a renewed vigor this time around, we learn from the Cliffs Notes, and we are now looking at a Wilco that's finally doing exactly what it wants to do. But that isn't exactly right -- Wilco wound up with on Nonesuch precisely because the label gave the band the freedom it had lacked with Reprise. Wilco has had creative free reign for years, something Tweedy hasn't hesitated to make clear in interviews. This was a business decision, and because the band is still working through big-market distribution channels, this doesn't really change much about the way Wilco goes about doing things.

If this band has found new vigor for exercising its considerable sway, the clearest indication is the choice to bring the Jesus of Cool, Nick Lowe, on tour. And make no mistake: This was not a marriage of convenience or marketing or anything else. That much was clear when Wilco recorded a cover of Lowe's "I Love My Label" and released it as a b-side on the "I Might" single. It was even clearer last night when Tweedy summoned Mr. Cool onstage during the encore for a two-song victory lap, with Lowe singing on Jim Ford's "36 Inches High" and Tweedy trading verses on "I Love My Label."

nick-lowe-review-photos-setlist.jpg
Photo by Jason Stoff

Lowe, for his part, could not contain his gratitude for this treatment. During his opening set, he characterized Wilco's bringing him along as a "bold and imaginative move on their part." Not that he's dead weight. Far, far from it. Lowe is in rarefied territory himself, an undisputed master of songcraft with a delivery that can still melt you. And as someone who never entered the level of social ubiquity that ensures a complicated legacy (see: frequent Lowe collaborator Elvis Costello or even Wilco), he can simply grin and enjoy his pure, slim sliver of respect.

Location Info

Venue

Map

Peabody Opera House

14th St. and Market St., St. Louis, MO

Category: Music

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28 comments
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  academic proofreadingservice
  academic proofreadingservice

   “this is very interesting. thanks for that. we need more sites like this. i commend you on your great content and excellent topic choices.”

Darby
Darby

A review of only the encore?

Mark Seaforth
Mark Seaforth

  How dare you discriminate against the drunks of the world. My friends and I were drunk and behaved with class and dignity. This puritanical bullshit needs to stop now.

mrs
mrs

Well, you got your high class drunks and your low class drunks....your Amsterdam drunks and your other damn drunks.

mrs
mrs

Would have enjoyed it if anyone already drunk or under the age of 30 was permitted from entering. Witnessed SEVERAL people kicked out for talking. I mean, I'm deaf in one ear, and they were sitting one section over. So, if *I* can hear them, imagine how it felt for the poor people around them. And then, the drunk, late people, who can't find their seats (because it is PITCH BLACK with NO lighting for row letters) and loudly interrupt, up and down each aisle until their drunk asses found the seat. Then the people on the phone. This isn't brain surgery; if you go to a show at The Firebird, it's a totally different atmosphere than attending a show at Fox or Peabody. If you have working eyeballs, you should be able to notice this. And honestly, Wilco's jambanding seems to be increasing. And that's unpleasant. Not to mention the fact that everyone seems to love Tweedy....well, the people from here that never actually knew him. In fact, I've never met a person who DID know him (from school, work, bands) that has a nice word to say. I like Wilco. I do. I've seen them several times. I've also seen "And I Am Trying To Break Your Heart." So, I split the difference. And regarding Mr. Lowe. This audience was certainly not worthy of him.

jw
jw

The ushers were idiots.  Not sure they ever attended a concert before.  Early quirks, I guess. Or perhaps they took the "Opera House" too seriously.

mrs
mrs

The ushers weren't idiots. Just poorly trained in some cases. And I'd argue they should have taken the phrase "opera house" MORE seriously. At Blues games, people aren't allowed to go to their seats until the action stops. Is it THAT much to ask that people not be permitted to go to their seats after getting their 5th marg or peeing for the 18th time until the SONG is over?

Jeff
Jeff

What a miserable rock show you describe.  The opera house has a huge shortcoing in the fact that the row letters were not remotely visible once the lights went down.

I actually kind of wished the guy next to me had gotten a few MORE beers in him - he just stood there like a rock with his arms crossed.  Made me feel self conscious about my head nodding and subtle air guitar.

Elena
Elena

As an under 30 Wilco-fan who was annoyed by the same things you point out, I resent that. Especially because the most obnoxious people sitting near me were well over 40. Watch your gross generalizations. Shi**y attendees come in all ages. 

mrs
mrs

and yes, it was a generalization. Based on a demographic. As always, there's exceptions, and you are one of them. I appreciate that.

mrs
mrs

Note I said "drunk" as well. Obviously, that applies to all ages.

mrs
mrs

Sigh. "permitted" = "prevented."

microminimalist
microminimalist

So much chatter, and the people seated to my left - a group of four men likely in their early 50s - seemed hilariously annoyed at the amount of feedback (to the point where they left pre-encore).

The playing was great, but tempered by the fact that I saw people kicked out of the venue for taking pictures - seriously. One woman working claimed this was in Wilco's stipulations; regardless of whose decision it was, it seemed silly on warning and beyond absurd at the ejection of people during the encore.

Sound in the Peabody was mostly excellent, although the drum EQ and keyboards could have used some more treble: Glenn's crotales and high toms were eaten somewhat in the mix.

Kiernan Maletsky
Kiernan Maletsky

Agreed on the sound.

Jeff
Jeff

the snare sound seemed to be clipping from where I was sitting

Jeff
Jeff

It was a fantastic setlist.  Put together really well.  The first 5 or 6 songs were not the first 5 or 6 most people probably would have guessed, but worked wonderfully.  The Encore was great, too, if more predicatable.

dawhizz
dawhizz

Agree. During the first 6 or so songs, I thought it was the best I'd ever heard them play, and I thought the visuals were very effective without being distracting.

jw
jw

Disagree.  The setlist had little balance and was way to heavy on YHF.

jw
jw

Too, of course.  Boo my grammar.

Guest
Guest

They also played Bull Black Nova and Standing O.

Ggrg
Ggrg

in regard to people talking over the music, let's just say "welcome to st. louis". 

wheresthebeef
wheresthebeef

So other than "Via Chicago', how was the show?

Shawn
Shawn

Was this proofread at all before publishing? So many errors.

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