Last night at Terminal 5 Wilco wrapped up a fantastic three-show run in New York City that saw the band dig deep into their repertoire each night. The days of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot classics Jesus Etc., I Am Trying To Break Your Heart and Heavy Metal Drummer appearing at nearly every show appear to be over as Wilco now has hundreds of originals to pull from. While it was expected that Jeff Tweedy and Co. would mix up the setlists from Monday night to Tuesday night, since both performances took place at Brooklyn’s Prospect Park Bandshell, they surprised the T5 crowd by dusting off a whopping 18 songs (out of 28) which weren’t played in Brooklyn.
By the time the three-night stand was over Wilco had treated their NYC fans to 54 different songs from throughout their career. And of course it’s not just what you play but how you play it. On that end Wilco has never sounded better. After a decade of frequent personnel changes, Tweedy has found the perfect formula. Ever since multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone and guitarist Nels Cline joined the band in 2004 the current sextet has remained intact.
Speaking of Cline, his massive skill set was on display each night of the NYC run. There are some guitarists who make it look easy but Cline is not one of them. Nels dug in to each ferocious solo in a way that left fans jaws on the ground. One of the few songs which was performed every night, Impossible Germany, put the spotlight on the guitarist who delivered three different, awe-inspiring solos over the course of the three shows. Watching Nels play is a clinic in tone and a treat for guitar aficionados who get to see Cline switch between classic axes for nearly every song so that he gets just the right sound.
Another tune Wilco tackled every night to no complaints was Art Of Almost from last year’s The Whole Love LP. The improvisation went so deep at Prospect Park on Tuesday night that I turned to a friend and asked, “I can’t believe I’m saying this at a Wilco concert, but is this still Art Of Almost?” The biggest similarities between the versions were the incensed looks Cline and keyboardist Mikael Jorgensen gave as they bashed away on their instruments. The once shy Jeff Tweedy has grown so comfortable in his front man shoes that he now delivers Art of Almost as a true lead singer, only picking up his guitar once the jam gets going. Furthermore, the band expertly placed Art of Almost in three completely different spots within the three shows using it as an encore on Monday, towards the end of the main set on Tuesday and as the second song of the night on Wednesday – now that’s versatility!
With such a huge repertoire, and their willingness to use it, Wilco has now become a band worth seeing multiple times on a tour. Between Tweedy’s oft-hysterical banter and impeccably crafted songs, Cline’s guitar mastery and the rest of the band’s unyielding execution, Wilco continues to prove why they are one of the best live acts in the game.
Setlist Key – BOLD = One-Timer / ITALICS = Played at Two of Three / PLAIN = Played at All Three
Monday, July 23 @ Prospect Park Bandshell
Set: Dawned On Me, War on War, I Might, I Am Trying to Break Your Heart, Muzzle of Bees, Born Alone, You Are My Face, Impossible Germany, Sunken Treasure, I’m Always In Love, Jesus, Etc., Handshake Drugs, Whole Love, Box Full of Letters, Hate It Here, Heavy Metal Drummer, I’m The Man Who Loves You, A Shot In The Arm
Encore: Poor Places, Art Of Almost, Standing O, California Stars
Encore 2: The Late Greats, Red-Eyed and Blue > I Got You (At the End of the Century), Outta Mind (Outta Sight), I’m A Wheel
Tuesday, July 24 @ Prospect Park Bandshell
Set: I Might, Misunderstood, Side With The Seeds, Pot Kettle Black, Hummingbird, Black Moon, Spiders (Acoustic Arrangement), Impossible Germany, Born Alone > Wishful Thinking, Laminated Cat, Say You Miss Me, I Must Be High, Whole Love, Nothing’severgonnastandinmyway(again), Radio Cure, Art Of Almost, Dawned on Me, A Shot in the Arm
Encore: Via Chicago, Airline To Heaven, Walken, I’m The Man Who Loves You, Monday > Outtasite (Outta Mind)
Encore 2: Kingpin, Hoodoo Voodoo
Wednesday, July 25 @ Terminal 5
Set: One Sunday Morning, Art Of Almost, I Might, At Least That’s What You Said, She’s A Jar, Kamera, Can’t Stand It, Too Far Apart, What’s The World Got In Store, Impossible Germany, Born Alone, Capitol City, Laminated Cat, Summer Teeth, Whole Love, Theologians, I’m The Man Who Loves You, Dawned On Me, A Shot in the Arm
Encore 1: Passenger Side, Casino Queen, Candyfloss, Hesitating Beauty, A Magazine Called Sunset, Kicking Television
Encore 2: The Late Greats, Dreamer In My Dreams, The Lonely 1