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July 9, 2009

Concert review: Wilco at Wolf Trap last night

jeff tweedyBaltimore Sun social networking guru Mary Hartney was at last night's Wilco show at Wolf Trap in Virginia. Here are her thoughts:

My favorite band (Wilco) at my favorite venue (Wolf Trap) on a gorgeous summer night: What could possibly go wrong?

Traffic and lawn seats, that's what.

We arrived at Wolf Trap about an hour before the show, which Conor Oberst opened, and the lawn was blanket-to-blanket packed. We wound up sitting on the farthest, highest hill, with no view of the stage.

But that's my problem, not yours, right? I can at least tell you how Wilco sounded. In a word: Incredible. ...

Wolf Trap's acoustics and sound system are unparalleled. The band was tight, polished and energetic just a week after the release of their eighth (depending on which ones you count) album, Wilco (The Album), and they appropriately opened the show with "Wilco (The Song)."

I also saw "Wilco (the shirt)" and "Wilco (the tote)," and one audience member with a shirt that read "Wilco (the fan)." It's so roll-your-eyes cute. I love it.

The band played several songs before we heard a word from Jeff Tweedy, the singer, who typically banters a good bit with the crowd. "I can smell you having a good time," he said between songs. "Good times smell weird."

wilco (the band)The set list was a mix of new songs -- I counted five off the new album -- and older material. One highlight for me was "How to Fight Loneliness," which Jeff said is the most-requested song via the band's Web site, with 36 votes. I don't think I've heard it live before, and it's a lovely song.

The "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" songs seemed to be crowd favorites, including "I'm the Man who Loves You," which began with a long feedback intro. Maybe everyone else also re-watched the concert/documentary DVD "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart" earlier this week; either way, that album holds up better than any other.

I've always loved Wilco albums more after I've seen them performed live, when something clicks.  This was particularly true with the spaced-out "A Ghost Is Born," and I realized it again last night during a meandering "Spiders/Kidsmoke." The new album is no exception. Last night's performance of "One Wing" proved that audiences will pay attention to quiet songs, and "You Never Know" was strangely uplifting.

Wilco ended the set with "Heavy Metal Drummer," then came back out for a three-song encore that began with "Misunderstood." There's really nothing like listening to Jeff Tweedy exhaust himself by screaming "nothing! nothing! nothing!" as part of the line, "I'd like to thank you all for nothing at all."

You don't even need a stage view to follow along.

Set list:
Wilco (the Song)
Shot in the Arm
At Least That's What You Said
Bull Black Nova
You Are My Face
I Am Trying to Break Your Heart
One Wing
How to Fight Loneliness
Impossible Germany
Deeper Down
Jesus, etc.
Sonny Feeling
Handshake Drugs
Hate it Here
I'm the Man who Loves You
You Don't Know
Heavy Metal Drummer

I'm a Wheel

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 4:20 PM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Concert reviews


Loved it! Great show on a perfect night for a picnic! I was a little dissapointed when they finished on with "I'm a Wheel." I thought they intentionally place it at that location because it's a short song giving them time to play one more...

I also like how they lead off with "Wilco (the song)" because it's a good song and to avoid any perception of taking themselves too seriously if it was played late in the set.

Lastly, I'm waiting to see if at some point there will be a segway from "Kidsmoke" into "Bull Black Nova" , or reversed. Don't you think that would be an outstanding 15-20 minutes of music!??

Did anyone stuck in the Veggie Oil notice a distinct aroma when passing through?

Great band, great venue but I've given up going to NoVa for a show. I feel the same way about Nissan.

Fwiw, you've got a couple inaccuracies in your review:

The main set ended with Hummingbird.

The encore was:
You Never Know
Heavy Metal Drummer
Spiders (Kidsmoke)
I'm A Wheel

wow tweety looks old and sick

That's what happens when you get clean, Anonymous.

Finkles, good point about them starting off with "Wilco (the song)." We took Rt. 29 to avoid the veggie smell (and spill and related traffic). Was it like fries?

bbop, thanks for that. Mine is just my own notes, so there's bound to be some inaccuracies. Consider the record corrected!

Anon/TheBeav, I'm not sure when that photo was taken, but it wasn't this week. He's actually looking pretty good these days, and they'll be on Letterman next Tuesday, along with Feist, so we can get totally x-treme closeups.

Your opinion is wrong. "Being There" holds up the best.

I saw them at Frawley Stadium in Wilmington on Friday night. Amazing. They came back out for a second encore and played "I must be high" from their first album. Wilco is an amazing live band and Nels Cline is probably the best guitar player alive.

No Tupelo?

saw them at red rocks in denver july 3rd. we got one hell of a 28 song setlist. best show ever.

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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