"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)

5.13.2008

last night in live music: wilco


"You have to learn how to die
If you want to want to be alive..."

I admit it. I have a Wilco problem. I know the words to most of the songs on most of their albums. I listen to bootlegs of their albums before they're released. I have MP3's of obscure performances. And I know that every one of the dozen or so times I've seen Wilco live, I always say it was one of the best of their shows that I've seen.

That's because it's true. Wilco is one of the best live bands anywhere. I don't know what it is, but it seems to me that since the lineup stabilized, the band has just gotten better and better. The last couple of performances I've seen from them have been incredibly tight, and, at times, breathtaking.

Monday night's show at Stubb's was no exception. The band - on the second night of a two-night stand in Austin and fresh from being thrown out of the hotel they were sharing with Karl Rove - was 100% on. The crowd in our area were true fans, recognizing all the songs on the first chord and singing along to everything. That's one of my favorite things about Wilco shows - you can become friends with anybody over a shared love of brilliant songwriting and amazing skills.

I don't have a full setlist, but highlights from tonight included Jeff Tweedy buttoning and unbuttoning his green jacket in response to a joke that carried over from Sunday night's show, "Passenger Side," which I hadn't heard live in ages, "Airline to Heaven," a great take on "Theologians," the always incredible "Spiders (Kidsmoke)" in the first encore (Nels Cline was AMAZING on this one.), "Kingpin," the always-gorgeous-live "Impossible Germany," and lots of other favorites, most of which were apparently fan-picked through voting on Wilco World. They closed the second encore with an epic version of "Monday" that was worth the price of admission on its own.

I was glad to get to see Wilco again so close to my 30th birthday, because if there's one band that defined my twenties, Wilco was it. From the first time The Diplomat played Being There for me on the way to Charlottesville to "Ashes of American Flags" on the long move back to Texas to one night when SOIUTK pulled me close during "I am Trying to Break Your Heart" and I knew that it was over for real, and a million moments in between, Wilco has been the soundtrack to many Significant Moments. Getting to stand in a crowd of strangers who become temporary friends was a nice way to bookend the last decade. And hearing one of my favorite Wilco lyrics, from "War on War" (above) was a good reminder that life's not worth living if it's consumed by fear.

There's a reason I keep going back.

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