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Pop culture junkie, native of Las Vegas, not really a writer.
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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Wilco Live at The Joint - A Review (plus an inadvertent restaurant review)

Last Friday I had a date night with Raymond, one of my nearest and dearest. We bemoan the fact that we don’t see enough of each other so when I bought two tickets to Wilco but had no one to go with, he was quite happy to take the ticket despite not being very familiar with the band. Since the concert was on me, Raymond bought dinner. I thought we were just going to Mr. Lucky’s the "diner" in the Hard Rock Hotel, but last minute Raymond decided he wanted sushi so we hit Nobu instead. I was very pleased to be treated to high end sushi but I have to express my disappointment. DO NOT EAT AT NOBU. It is absolutely not worth the money. It’s not bad, but it’s not anything special either. When Phillip and I go to our favorite sushi spot, Kai, where the sushi chefs, Yun and Milton, who we have been loyal to for 10 years, treat us like dear friends, we can get a salmon sashimi plate with about 18 large pieces of salmon for $20. At Nobu, Raymond and I ordered the sashimi dinner which was about twelve pieces of assorted fish - some sliced into tiny "stylish" pieces - for $55. Ridiculous. We did have a hot plate of rock shrimp with a butter ponzu sauce that was excellent and their special of the night, tempura battered crab claws with a chili cilantro sauce, was also very good. I guess if I were ever to go to Nobu again, I would only order off the hot menu and skip the sushi altogether. I love Raymond and I am extremely thankful that he treated me to such an expensive meal where we were able to sit and chat and catch up and laugh. I just wish the restaurant had lived up to its reputation foodwise.

I first saw Wilco at The House of Blues in March of 2002. That show had the most incredible energy, building and building and building until by the end the crowd was in a complete frenzy and we all left the venue kind of dazed and stumbling. I saw them again in September of 2003 as the opening act for R.E.M. at the Thomas & Mack Center. That show did not have the same energy as the HOB show because most people were not there to see Wilco and, being the opening act, they played a small set and people were trickling into the venue the entire time which was distracting. So suffice to say, I had high expectations for this headlining show at The Joint. And of course Wilco were tremendous. Their new album coming out at the end of this month, Wilco (The Album), is the first time in the history of the band that the members are exactly the same as on the last album, Sky Blue Sky, and you can tell. They are happy to be playing together, they get along, and they are tight and sound terrific. There is something about Wilco crowds too: a camaraderie, an energy, a shared knowledge that we are seeing something special, that adds to the overall experience and this crowd was no exception. United we were eager, raucous, bouncy, ecstatic.

They opened with the first single off the new album, Wilco (The Song), which is a perfect opener and lets the audience know exactly what kind of band they are and what we are all in for, "Oh this is a fact, that you need to know, oh, oh, oh, oh Wilco, Wilco, Wilco, Wilco, Wilco will love you baby!" From there they immediately went into, A Shot in the Arm, one of their bigger hits off the sentimental favorite Summerteeth (still my favorite Wilco album, I think. Wait no, maybe I like Yankee Hotel Foxtrot more. But then again, Being There is pretty righteous. Oh, nevermind.) It was smart of them to play an oldie sing along song like A Shot in the Arm to remind people that yes, as a band they’ve gone through many changes, experimented with their sound endlessly, and maybe even lost some fans over the years because of it, but they know that some of us have been loyal since the beginning and so here ya go! Happy now? Yes! Yes I am!

I was surprised that over the course of the night they did five songs off the polarizing album A Ghost Is Born. I am the first to admit that I didn’t quite "get" that album, I prefer the more accessible tracks off it, and I hardly ever listen to it. Hearing the five songs played with aplomb live and met by the audience with as much reverence as anything else has made me want to revisit the album. That’s what a great live show can do: show you something about a band that you may have missed before.

Wilco had played nearly two hours when they left the stage. We of course knew an encore was coming and I expected two or three songs. They played nine!!! Opening the encore with the bouncy, nostalgic, summer anthem Heavy Metal Drummer was perfection, "Shiny shiny pants and bleach blonde hair, a double kick drum by the river in the summer, she fell in love with a drummer, another and another, she fell in love." I was also happy to hear a few more tracks off Sky Blue Sky which I think is an underrated album. Especially Hate It Here, with it's Beatles-esque riff into the chorus, was fun to hear live even though it's actually a terribly sad song. Being in Las Vegas, Jeff Tweedy early on teased the crowd saying, "You probably want to hear Casino Queen, but isn’t that too obvious?" It was fairly dismissive and I figured it was the last thing we’d hear about it. The two times I’ve seen them here they have NOT played Casino Queen and although yes, playing a song about gambling and losing all your money in the world capital of exactly that, does seem fairly obvious, I don’t think it can hurt to give your audience what it wants. So when they busted out with it as the 8th song of their encore set it was pretty exciting! "Casino Queen, my lord you're mean. I've been gambling like a fiend on your tables so green." And as they say, the crowd went wild!

Now here’s where I give a shout out to the awesomeness that is Nels Cline, the 53 year old current Wilco lead guitarist. The man can SHRED. Nels was so rocking that I could barely take my eyes off him in order to gaze adoringly at the precious Jeff Tweedy. Overall the show was incredible with a wonderful mix of songs from the band’s history, even including two songs off their Woody Guthrie collaboration with Billy Bragg, Mermaid Avenue Vol. 1. If I had the time and the money I would absolutely follow this band on tour like they were The Grateful Freaking Dead.

And for people who are into things like this, here’s the set list which I filched off http://wilcobase.com/index.php:

1. Wilco (The Song)
2. A Shot in the Arm
3. I Am Trying To Break Your Heart
4. At Least That’s What You Said
5. Bull Black Nova
6. You Are My Face
7. One Wing
8. Handshake Drugs
9. Side With The Seeds
10. Box Full of Letters
11. Jesus, Etc.
12. Impossible Germany
13. California Stars
14. Sonny Feeling
15. Misunderstood
16. Spiders (Kidsmoke)
17. Hummingbird

18. Heavy Metal Drummer
19. A Magazine Called Sunset
20. You Never Know
21. Hate It Here
22. Walken
23. I’m The Man Who Loves You
24. The Late Greats
25. Casino Queen
26. Hoodoo Voodoo

I was able to take some photos of the show with my iPhone. There were lots of people taking pictures and recordings at the show and security didn’t really do anything about it, which was nice.

Firstly, our tickets! Yay!

Next, this is a picture of one of the video screens at the venue so you can see a shot of the AWESOME long haired, mustachioed, fringed-caftan-wearing, bongo player for the opening act.

Now some shots of Wilco!!


  1. It's funny how we've been to all the Wilco shows together but never together.

  2. Funny and SAD. I'm so bummed I missed you last weekend! Let me know when you visit Vegas again.

  3. I am quite jealous of this but quite thankful that I did hear some of it live thanks to you!

  4. It was my pleasure to share the Wilco love. . .


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