Wednesday, July 04, 2012

In "Taking Advantage of the Acoustics," Impressively, at the Adler Theatre in Davenport, Wilco Plays It a Bit Too Obscure -- Concert Review

Concert Review

with Kelly Hogan
July 3, 2012
Adler Theatre, Davenport, IA
(Hogan's opening set: @@@@1/2)

Prior to Tuesday night, I had seen Wilco in concert 8 times, all within the Chicago city limits.

This stood as the most times I had seen any one artist without any of the shows being beyond the Chicago metropolitan area. (This Pinterest board runs down many of the acts I've seen multiple times.)

While this certainly might sound trivial, and isn't specifically what spurred me to drive to the Quad Cities--I wanted to see the Figge Art Museum, and the chance to also see Wilco made this an opportune time--I was curious as to how Jeff Tweedy and company might adapt outside their home base in Chicago (or even another big city where fawning fans are in abundant supply).

Within the Windy City, Wilco sells every ticket they put on sale (although a few seem to remain for Sunday's show at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark in west suburban Geneva) and several of shows I've seen have been within multi-night stands. The gig I caught last December at the Riviera was fantastic, being heavy on harder guitar-driven songs, but other sets I've seen have included a hefty helping of more atmospheric numbers. It's possible, at least in my mind, that the band mines their catalog a bit deeper when playing to crowds more likely to be filled with hardcore devotees.

In Davenport, I bought a ticket on the day of the show in the seventh of the balcony, with most of the 15 rows behind me completely empty. I wondered if being away from their home turf, where they might actually have to win over fans, could cause Wilco to opt for a more conventional and accessible setlist.

But demonstrating why they're Wilco and I'm not, for much of their set the band played a selection even more obscure and atmospheric than any I readily recall in Chicago. Even though I have all of Wilco's albums and have seen them numerous times, several of the songs they played--particularly during the first half of the show--were beyond my recognition. (See for the full Davenport setlist.)

Not that they didn't play them well. The six-piece band is amazingly  proficient at replicating intricate studio sounds live on stage, and Glenn Kotche's typically thunderous drumming helped ensure the music never really dragged.

Midway through the show, with "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart" the only near-populist song to that point, Tweedy explained that they hadn't been playing a lot of theaters and thus were "taking advantage of the acoustics."

So it seems that playing a half-full venue in a small Midwestern locale didn't affect Wilco's song choices nearly as much being indoors--in a lovely old theater--did.

Although I much preferred the Riv show, I appreciated this one as a nice complement. Now 15+ years into their career, Wilco has likely established itself as one of the top 30 American bands of all-time. They have an impressive wealth of material, and like Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, Phish and relatively few other live acts within my familiarity, they substantially change up their setlists every show. While I prefer their rockier side, I wouldn't be much of a fan if I couldn't also enjoy them at their more idiosyncratic.

Fortunately, the latter part of the set and encores included more crowd-pleasing--at least for me--stuff such as "I'm Always in Love," "Heavy Metal Drummer," "I'm the Man Who Loves You," "A Shot in the Arm," "California Stars" and "Can't Stand It."

Of course, unlike at other recent tour stops, they didn't end the night by playing a four-song second encore including early gems like "Monday" and "Outtasite (Outta Mind)" off 1996's Being There (still my favorite Wilco album). Rather, they left the stage after playing just one more tune, and one I didn't know at that ("Dreamer in My Dreams").

It was that kind of night. Excellent and enjoyable in its own way--highlighted perhaps by a sensational opening set by an adult-styled singer named Kelly Hogan--but for my Wilco tastes, a bit more obscure than optimal.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So your favorite Wilco album is Being There but you dont know Dreamer in my Dreams? I am pretty sure that tune closes one of the sides of that album. Dude, I appreciate you trying to be cool with your blog, but when you dont know jack about the topic you are writing about, probably better to just not write about it. How can you have seen Wilco 8 times and not know Dreamer in my Dreams? And I looked at the setlist - if you truly know Wilco you saw an amazing show last night. Just enjoy it brother, dont blog it.