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Shortish concert reviews (and setlists, whenever possible)

Wilco — 11/9/11, Munich, Germany (Circus Krone)

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Just a few brief words on this gig, though I’d like to write more. However, I’m in Berlin at the moment and there are record stores to visit and currywurst to eat. So forthwith…

Probably my favorite show thus far on this run, for purely personal reasons. I feel like I successfully exorcised my ticket-buying demons from last year’s show at the same venue when I unknowingly bought tickets in the bleacher-style seats that ring the stage instead of the floor seats right in front that all my friends had been smart enough to buy. It was a nice feeling to be able to go straight through to my seat this time instead of being told by a security guard — rather gruffly, I might add — that I couldn’t go where I wanted the previous year.

There were plenty of other reasons I had a great time at this show as well, chief among them unexpectedly running into some friends I had met on another European tour and seeing a couple of faces that have become familiar on this one. Unlike in Frankfurt, most of the crowd stood almost immediately and stayed standing, at least that I could see, so that created better energy from the outset. I think Jeff was feeling a little better too, just a hunch based on how he looked and small things like doing his patented “one-leg solo” during “I’m The Man Who Loves You.”

And then there was the matter of more surprises in the setlist. When I saw that the band had recently closed a show in Spain with “The Lonely 1,” I thought it’d be nice to hear that one again with the full band. I didn’t think it would happen in this venue, but I got my secret wish to start the encore. A closing 1-2 punch of “Standing O” and “I’m A Wheel,” which I didn’t entirely see coming made for an upbeat end to a fun night.

Not much else I can think of to report right now — aside from a little bit of funny American banter by Jeff that you just sort of had to be there for — and my stomach is definitely rumbling, so I’ll leave it at that. Moral of the story: when buying tickets for Circus Krone, “innenraum” is apparently a good thing.

This was the complete setlist, as played:

One Sunday Morning>
Poor Places>
Art Of Almost
IATTBYH
I Might
Side With The Seeds
Black Moon
Impossible Germany
Born Alone
Jesus, etc.
Capitol City
Handshake Drugs
Dawned On Me
Hummingbird
Misunderstood
I’ll Fight
War On War
Whole Love
A Shot in the Arm
———————
The Lonely 1
Passenger Side
The Late Greats
I’m The Man Who Loves You
Standing O
I’m A Wheel

Written by bbop

November 9, 2011 at 9:08 pm

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Wilco — 11/8/11, Frankfurt, Germany (Alte Oper)

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From the outside — and I suppose I’ll try to post a picture when I get back home because words don’t really do it justice — the Alte Oper doesn’t look like a place that Wilco (or any other rock band) should be playing. If I knew more about architecture, I could describe it in more detail but suffice it to say that the place looks, well, grand. Actually, I think Alte Oper merely translates to “old opera house,” but you get the point.

Inside, it’s not quite as posh as its exterior might have you believe. The main hall itself more closely resembles modern, wood-paneled auditoria that I’ve seen in Spanish cities rather than some of the beautifully restored, ornately decorated old theaters with plush seats in which I’ve seen Wilco play. But nonetheless, the setting wasn’t necessarily the most conducive to a rock concert.

And for more than half the show, those in attendance pretty much behaved like they were at an opera or other high-brow cultural event. The crowd was, as Jeff put it, “polite.” I saw it around me, with the man to my right sitting with arms and legs crossed for much of the show and the young couple to my left displaying almost no reaction at all (c’mon, not even a toe tap…really?). Only after a rousing “Impossible Germany” did a small pocket of people behind me rise to their feet to give Nels a standing ovation, which Jeff duly pointed out to the rest of the band (and audience).

So overall, it had the makings of one of those kinds of shows, despite some good head-bobbing relative rarities like “Kamera” and “I’ll Fight.” After the latter, I guess Jeff couldn’t help but comment. He said he could understand that some of Wilco’s more “delicate” music might lend itself better to sitting down but, looking down at his setlist, “that music’s been played already.” Then, while stopping short of actually telling the crowd to stand, Jeff nonetheless communicated his belief that to really “feel” rock music, you needed to stand up. Needless to say, most people finally got the message.

From that point on, it felt more like a proper Wilco gig. And even though there were only a handful of songs left in the set by that point, I can report that they were definitely some of the highlights of the night.

Not much other banter to report than the above, but it was nice to see that Jeff seemed to be feeling much better than the previous night in Basel. He was moving around a lot better, seemed to have more color and wasn’t even sporting what has become his trademark hat. For the record, however, I have no idea if the latter was related to his improved condition.

Here was the complete setlist, as played:

One Sunday Morning
Poor Places>
Art Of Almost
I Might
IATTBYH>
One Wing
At Least That’s What You Said
Black Moon
Impossible Germany (started and restarted)
Born Alone
Jesus, etc.
Capitol City
Kamera
I’ll Fight
Handshake Drugs
Hummingbird
Dawned On Me
Box Full Of Letters
Theologians
I’m The Man Who Loves You
————————-
Via Chicago
Whole Love
A Shot in the Arm

Written by bbop

November 9, 2011 at 9:48 am

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Wilco — 11/7/11, Basel, Switzerland (Kaserne Basel)

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Not much time left on this WiFi access, so I’ll keep it relatively brief for now…

There were some reasons to have lower-than-normal expectations for this show. It was Wilco’s first time in Basel, which sometimes spells doom for a reasonably varied setlist. And the venue, while standing room-only and pretty intimate, didn’t necessarily bode for the greatest sound. Meanwhile, just outside (and I mean, just outside) one of the main sites of Basel’s annual carnival called the Herbstmesse (Autumn Fair) was taking place with a bunch of garish, crazy-looking roller coasters and rides.

So when Jeff announced about halfway through the set — his first time addressing the crowd — that he was “feeling about as bad as I’ve ever felt on stage” and hoped he wouldn’t throw up, it didn’t have the makings of the greatest night. Apparently Jeff and a couple other members of the band’s traveling party had been felled by some bad lentils at a French truck stop en route to Switzerland from Spain. (I’m not sure why you’d ever go near lentils at a French truck stop, but that’s another story.)

Nonetheless, the band soldiered on and Jeff’s condition seemed to improve slightly over the second half of the show. Maybe he just forgot how badly he felt for a little bit or was stubbornly determined to finish the show off strongly, but he managed to turn in a more-than-respectable performance. And whether the setlist was geared toward some easier-going numbers or if it was mere coincidence, it was nice to hear some less-frequently-performed gems as “Radio Cure,” “Country Disappeared” and “Forget The Flowers.”

So all in all, it was a solid set in front of a pretty enthusiastic audience. Sure, we didn’t get the “rocker” encore that I normally prefer, especially in a smallish, packed venue like the Kaserne Basel’s Reithalle, but we did get 25 songs in total and some unexpected sequencing in the setlist. On a purely personal level, that’s as good a way to begin a Wilco run as anything else.

Here was the complete setlist, as played:

Dawned On Me
I Might
IATTBYH>
One Wing
Bull Black Nova
Radio Cure
Born Alone
Hummingbird
Whole Love
Handshake Drugs
Jesus, etc.
Capitol City>
I’m The Man Who Loves You
Standing O
Country Disappeared
Impossible Germany
One Sunday Morning
Poor Places>
Art Of Almost
——————-
Via Chicago
Forget The Flowers
Theologians
War On War
A Shot in the Arm
Heavy Metal Drummer

Written by bbop

November 8, 2011 at 4:02 am

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Bon Iver — 11/6/11, Hamburg, Germany (Docks)

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First chance for me to see Bon Iver on its current tour in support of its self-titled album, having missed out on a chance to catch one of the U.S. dates in September. I haven’t really had too much of a chance to listen to the record, to be completely honest, and the couple of spins I have given it haven’t totally grabbed me. But live, it’s hard to argue that Justin Vernon and his eight bandmates have become quite the powerful unit. Between them, they seemingly have enough wind and brass instruments to hold their own against a symphony orchestra. Add in two drummers, the occasional violin and Vernon’s assortment of synths and effects pedals and this formation of Bon Iver can make just about any variety of sounds.

Vernon and Co. leaned heavily on the new album for the bulk of their set here at the dumpy-looking, but surprisingly good-sounding Reeperbahn club called Docks. It was a more intimate venue than I was expecting, albeit with a rather high stage. But from a few rows back in the middle, the sound — considering the vast array of players and instruments — was as good as could have been expected.

Like I said, I haven’t gotten a tremendous grasp on all of the “new” material yet. Maybe part of it is that several songs blend together in my mind, which is how the show started: “Perth” segued right into “Minnesota, WI” to start, followed immediately by “Holocene” and “Towers.” That’s the exact sequence to start the record as well and it can be a bit tough (at least for me) to distinguish one song from another, though “Holocene” was an early highlight.

As the show went on, some older material began to find its way into the setlist. Yet even with some of these tried-and-true favorites, Vernon seemed somewhat restless. So “Creature Fear” was significantly rearranged, interestingly, and “Skinny Love” featured a seated Vernon playing what looked like dobro with three bandmates around a single microphone on both sides of him singing backing harmonies (“my my my, my my my, my my”) and the two drummers. The perfectly symmetrical lineup onstage gave the song’s line about “I told you to be balanced” a new resonance, in my mind anyway (and I’m sure no one else’s).

Anyway, I could probably go on but I should attempt to get at least a modicum of sleep. Suffice it to say, the show was impressive and I look forward to seeing Vernon and his band continue to evolve. Judging by the great reception they received in Hamburg — and have received virtually everywhere — I’m sure the next time I have a chance to see them perform will come in a significantly bigger venue. That will be the next challenge for Bon Iver, it seems to me — finding a way to make their relatively intimate music resonate with the greater and greater numbers of people discovering it.

Here was the complete setlist, as played:

Perth>
Minnesota, WI
Holocene
Towers
Creature Fear
Hinnom, TX
Wash.
Flume
Blood Bank
Re: Stacks (Justin solo)
Skinny Love (started and restarted)
Calgary>
Lisbon, OH>
Beth/Rest
The Wolves (Act I and II)
————————-
Who Is It [Bjork]
For Emma

As much of a treat for me was getting to see opening act Kathleen Edwards, who played about 45 minutes of stripped-down folk with backing from longtime collaborators Gord Tough (guitar) and Jim Bryson (keyboard, guitar).

Count me as one eagerly awaiting the release of her next record in January, whether it’s called “Moving To America” (as she joked about) or not.

Here was her setlist, as played:

Buffalo
new song-Sidecar
Six O’Clock News
new song-Change The Sheets
Goodnight, California
12 Bellevue
new song-Moving To America [edit: Empty Threat]
From Hank To Hendrix [Neil Young] (with Mike Noyce and Rob Moose on harmony vocals)

Written by bbop

November 6, 2011 at 9:34 pm

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St. Vincent — 11/3/11, New York, NY (Webster Hall)

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Setlist to come.

Written by bbop

November 6, 2011 at 8:36 pm

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Feist — 11/2/11, Brooklyn, NY (BAM Howard Gilman Opera House)

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Setlist to come.

Written by bbop

November 6, 2011 at 8:35 pm

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Matthew Sweet — 10/31/11, New York, NY (City Winery)

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Setlist to come. Virtually same as show I saw in Chicago.

Written by bbop

November 6, 2011 at 8:34 pm

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