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Firing on all cylinders

Eagles Ballroom
Milwaukee, WI
Oct. 9, 2007
Wilco Wilco

Story and photos by Matt Schwenke

Touring in support of their 2007 release Sky Blue Sky, Wilco arrived in Milwaukee following a 10-day break from touring that kicked off a six-show stint with Andrew Bird opening up, and the rest, as well as the pairing of two highly artistic acts, provided for a lively, top-notch night of music. From the sparkling then gritty opening of "You Are My Face" to the night-ending "Spiders (Kidsmoke)," Wilco, as frontman Jeff Tweedy said during the show, was "firing on all cylinders."

With the newest member of the band, Mikael Jorgensen, providing the host of samples during an early run of songs from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Wilco lead guitarist Nels Cline came crashing out of the gates with inspired solos, most notably in the outro of "War On War" and then immediately following with "Handshake Drugs," from A Ghost Is Born. Stepping back a bit, the gentle blues stylings of the new "Side With The Seeds" teased a gutsy rock progression before coming back to it to end the song and leave Cline flying high above the music with fluttering guitar lines. With the band all smiles, "Shot In The Arm" amped the energy up another notch, before the new "Impossible Germany" wrapped the crowd in a compelling calm anchored by bassist John Stirratt and multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone. Other notables from the new album included the title track, "Walken" and "Hate It Here," which find Tweedy and company quite comfortable with their alt-country/Americana roots. Just as comfortable in an indie rock mode, drummer Glenn Kotche was impressively driving in "Im The Man Who Loves You" late in the set.

Beckoned back to the stage by a roar of cheers, Wilco's first encore was highlighted by "Hesitating Beauty" and "California Stars" from Billy Bragg & Wilco's 1998 release Mermaid Avenue, and after quickly returning to the stage for a second encore, a run of tunes from Being There set an earlier, raw tone before Tweedy took over the stage to sing and play "Someone Else's Song" without amplification and to start a third encore. After about a minute, the crowd quieted down enough for Tweedy's voice and acoustic guitar to carry throughout the ballroom, and at least momentarily, the acoustics of the ballroom (which generally only sound clear when in line with the sound board) helped the show. After a full-band version of "Spiders (Kidsmoke)" provided an exclamation point to the evening, and to which a bra was tossed on stage, a very appreciative Wilco, while joking they weren't sure what to do with the bra, left a very appreciative crowd.

While opener Andrew Bird, who performed solo, was mostly indecipherable in talking to the crowd between songs, the large hall sound actually added another pleasing element to his sound-- the reverb created in his set-ending "Scythian Empires," from his latest release Armchair Apocrypha, reached haunting heights as violin, whistling and a host of loops whirled and echoed about as fast as his rotating speaker on its fastest setting.
Wilco setlist 10/09/07:
You Are My Face
I Am Trying To Break Your Heart
Pot Kettle Black
War On War
Handshake Drugs
Side With The Seeds
Shot In The Arm
Impossible Germany
Sky Blue Sky
Too Far Apart
Jesus, etc.
Hate It Here
I'm The Man Who Loves You

Hesitating Beauty
Heavy Metal Drummer
California Stars


Red-Eyed and Blue
I Got You
Casino Queen
Outtasite (Outta Mind)


Someone Else's Song
Spiders (Kidsmoke)
Wilco Wilco
Wilco Wilco

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