21 July 2009

Wilco @ Artpark

Killing some time in the afternoon before the show I got sucked in to watching Minority Report on cable. I had seen it before, a couple of times, but somehow, the twists and turns totally took me by surprise. I had no idea what was going to happen next, even though I had seen it all before.

It occurred to me watching Wilco at Artpark on Sunday night that I was enjoying the heck out of their set in much the same way. I had seen it before, but there were still surprises awaiting. And similar to the movie, Wilco is great and can be enjoyed on multiple levels. Catch one thing one time, see it differently the next, and different yet again the next time. Wilco's shows really don't vary all that much from night to night, and only slightly more from tour to tour, yet every time I see them I find myself surprised at how good it is, and find new nuances to appreciate and enjoy. One thing I definitely have never seen before though perhaps they are doing it every night: Before the encore, Tweedy leaned down to say something to a woman in the front row. Then during the first space section in Spiders he crouches down to her and lets her strum his guitar for the entire jam. Bizarre and cool.

Sunday's set, which after a little investigation is almost identical to most of the other sets they've played on this tour, was played out particularly well... great song placement, great combinations, nice flow through the whole. Sometimes they seem to take a few songs to get it going and hold off on some of the heavy hitters until the end, but this set was very even. It is tough to complain after what was probably the best Wilco show I have seen (not that one was much worse than any other), but it would be nice if they mixed it up just a little more, I mean they have to start getting bored playing the same shit every night, no?

Through circumstances beyond my control I had to miss the opener, Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band, which was unfortunate since I have heard great things. I didn't miss them completely, because they sat in with Wilco for a great rendition of California Stars.

As a native central New Yorker, I am amazed that this was my first trip out to Artpark. What a venue. It is a sweet midsize theater with a convertible back that opens up to a small lawn in the summer. It exists in a state park (which being there in the dark I can not vouch for its beauty or otherwise) right on the Canadian border not too far from the falls. There is a smaller outdoor stage overlooking the gorge which must be another great spot to catch some music. Looking forward to returning as soon as I can.

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