147: Outtasite: Wilco, March 1, 2010

Personally, I hate this shade of green.

147: Outtasite: Wilco with Bahamas, Southam Hall, National Arts Centre, Ottawa, Ontario, Monday March 1, 2010, $54.75.

During a Lucinda Williams show in 2007, she talked to the crowd about her take on the synergy of a concert, how it’s not just about spectators watching a performer but about the two entities engaging, feeding off of each other with reciprocal energy. Well, this Wilco show was a perfect demonstration of The Lucinda Principle put into practice. Both band and audience were in a celebratory mood, primed for having a great time. The crowd brought enthusiasm and affection by the shedload and Wilco responded with the best set I have ever seen them play. I would describe this as a perfect concert.

This March 1, 2010 show took place on what was an unofficial National Day of Celebration, following Canada’s nail-biting Olympic hockey victory over the US the previous day. The whole country felt drunk with joy – and many were, with more than just joy.

As with anywhere in the world, there are always cultural misconceptions, distortions or untruths about a particular country or region, and Canada is no exception to inaccurate assumptions. However, the one about everyone up here being fanatically obsessed with hockey … okay, actually, that is true. I am one of about, say, 72 Canadians who does not live and breathe hockey during half (3/4?) of the year, and even I watched the game, cheering the team on. That says something about how much of a historical and cultural landmark it was north of the 49th.

Wilco played the following night at the NAC’s Southam Hall and the sold out crowd was positively giddy.


 The National Arts Centre, Ottawa, June 2010.  Southam Hall is the NAC’s opera house and largest performing venue. (Photo by VA)

“Was there a big sporting event that you won or something?” deadpanned Wilco frontman and de facto leader, Jeff Tweedy. “I’ve never seen you all so happy.” Closing in on the end of a cross-Canada tour, he often weighed in throughout the night on what a trip it had been to be here, watching the mania of the hockey series build and then witnessing the spontaneous eruption of euphoria.

But before Chicago’s finest took to the stage, Toronto’s Bahamas warmed up the crowd. Cublet and I trotted over to the NAC and into our seats shortly after Bahamas had begun his set. I knew absolutely nothing about him but was pretty impressed, as were seemingly most in attendance.

Although a fairly minimalist performer, with simply himself on guitar along with a drummer, Bahamas had Southam Hall in the palm of his hand with his soft, dreamy tunes, receiving quite a positive response from the crowd. “Who is this?” enquired Cublet. “He’s good.” I concurred. As it turns out, his main gig is as Feist’s guitar player. Ergo, we had seem him in that role a few times before, but weren’t yet aware of that.

Bahamas alternated solid songwriting with witty between-song patter, noting that it had been an honour to open this series of shows for Wilco. He also talked about the terrific affirmation he had been getting from audiences, and that tonight’s crowd was particularly complimentary.

His debut album, Pink Strat, made the that year’s Polaris long list, but unfortunately not the final short list).

After a brief intermission, Wilco took to the stage, kicking off the night with the one-two punch of “Wilco (The Song)” and “Black Bull Nova” off their latest disc, Wilco (The Album) (I wonder if there is any swag out there along the lines of Wilco {The Nose Snood} ) before settling in to a long, faultless set.

One of the things that I love about this band is their deft stylistic diversity. While many groups seem to simply re-make the same album over and over, Wilco genre jump from disc to disc – and sometimes within the context of one – in a way that seems organic rather than contrived. They remind me a bit of The Beatles in that they will try their hand at a variety of musics – rootsy introspection, mellotron-laden retro-pop, crunchy alt-rock, and avant-garde soundscape experimention – yet the overall picture threads together nicely, with the signature element of Tweedy’s superb songwriting at the core, anchoring the varied side trips.

They delivered a 2.5 hour, 26-song performance, finely burnishing chestnuts from every stage of their career, showcasing each facet of their musical strengths, and imbuing every number with all the right details and elements. “Via Chicago” and “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart” were moody and abrasive while “Blue Eyed Soul” and “You Are My Face” were nuanced and introspective. “California Stars” and “A Shot in the Arm” bopped hard while “Hummingbird” and “You Never Know” (the best song The Travelling Wilburys never recorded) nimbly bounced. The Television-esque guitar interplay of “Impossible Germany” and “Side With the Seeds” cross-stitched and soared while “Handshake Drugs” and “Poor Places” slowly built into Sonic Youth-esque sound sculptures. And “I’m A Wheel” and “Spiders” straight up rocked the house.


 Photograph of a license plate, taken by OS’s lschmoopie following a concert in California (thanks for the use of the photo).  As for the sentiments, I couldn’t agree more.

It’s impossible to talk about a Wilco show without noting how the current six-member band functions as such an intuitive, cohesive whole. They were on fire. The interplay between the musicians seemed telepathic, with the resulting performance telegraphed from a shared zone between them. Multi-instrumentalist Nels Cline must be singled out for special mention and meritorious service throughout the evening, adding a variety of sonic details, interjections, and inspired playing that kicked everything up that extra notch.


Nels Cline and some angular guitar freak-outs during a personal favourite of mine, “Impossible Germany,” Southam Hall, NAC, Ottawa, Ontario, March 1, 2010.

We had great seats at the end of the 8th row, but I was just too into the show and wired up from the ongoing performance to sit down. Instead, I joined a cluster of people at the left hand side of the stage, all of us taking it in while standing and swaying, going deeper into the music with each consecutive tune.

Tweedy remained oddly silent for about the first third of the evening but turned into a between-set chatterbox as the night progressed. He even indulged in some of that there fun audience participation schtuff, coaxing the audience into singing “Jesus Etc.” for him. Slacker!


The Southam Hall audience accompanying Wilco on “Jesus Etc.”

Following the main set, they returned for encores, beginning with their cover of Neil Young’s “Broken Arrow.” I had been expecting this as Wilco had recently played the Buffalo Springfield-era nugget in front of Neil himself as part of a Grammy Awards MusiCares tribute show. What I hadn’t expected was such a faithful recreation of this tune. While I normally prefer covers that differ considerably from the original, in this instance I enjoyed the perversity of a meticulous recreation given that the original recording is such a decidedly studio-created, patchwork piece.   And they pulled it off beautifully.


Wilco’s cover of Neil Young/Buffalo Springfield’s “Broken Arrow,” Portland, Oregon, Feb. 9, 2010.

Five more numbers later and Wilco were over and out for the evening, concluding with “I’m the Man Who Loves You.”

Over the past decade or so, they’ve emerged as one of the finest bands of this era. I’ve now seen Wilco play one good show, one great one, and, with this March 1st performance, a true classic in my personal canon that was, to invoke a song title from Being There, Outtasite.

More of this, please.

A superb full rendition of “Impossible Germany” from 2009.  Is this Television or what?


A series of clips from the March 1, 2010 gig. While this compilation is nice and well put together, the person has edited the footage down to highlight many of the more low-key moments of the show and is therefore not a fully representative overview of Wilco on that night.  Still, this is a pretty cool souvenir.

Next On Stage–> I finally get to see a living legend live, one who had been on my “Must See” list for decades.  Join me as we venture out to see the Queen of Soul and I try not to plunge to my death off of a balcony.

148. Dr. Feelgood: Aretha Franklin, Southam Hall, National Arts Centre, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, Sunday May 30, 2010.

© 2011 VariousArtists

Comments From Original OpenSalon.com Posting

You said : They remind me a bit of The Beatles in that they will try their hand at a variety of musics – rootsy introspection, mellotron-laden retro-pop, crunchy alt-rock, and avant-garde soundscape experimention – yet the overall picture threads together nicely, with the signature element of Tweedy’s superb songwriting at the core, anchoring the varied side trips.

I say: Yes, yes, and yes. That is probably why they are one of my fav. bands.

Here is the set list from when I saw them in 2009 in Berkeley, CA:
1. Wilco (The Song)
2. Muzzle Of Bees
3. A Shot In The Arm
4. At Least That’s What You Said
5. Bull Black Nova
6. You Are My Face
7. Deeper Down
8. I Am Trying To Break Your Heart
9. One Wing
10. Radio Cure
11. Impossible Germany
12. California Stars
13. Can’t Stand It
14. Jesus, Etc.
15. Handshake Drugs
16. Hate It Here
17. Walken
18. I’m The Man Who Loves You

Set 2:
19. You Never Know
20. The Late Greats
21. Box Full Of Letters
22. Misunderstood
23. Spiders (Kidsmoke)
24. Hoodoo Voodoo

The crowd was on their feet the entire night. It was a gorgeous night under the “California Stars”. It was also the first time Wilco had done a program, so we got one for $5.00-complete with band artwork.

Ah, you got to hear “Can’t Stand It” and “Misunderstood.”

For some reason, they never seem to play “What Light” which is a big favourite.


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