Sunday, October 10th, 2004

All These Telescopic Poems

So you think I’d be excited for last night’s Wilco concert at Massey Hall, right? And I was, very much so, but I was also apprehensive. After all – this show was coming barely two months after their Mod Club show, which I declared “the best show I have ever seen”… what could they do for an encore?

It’s probably a good thing that Massey Hall is a dramatically different venue from The Mod Club – by virtue of the environment, a different sort of vibe was almost guaranteed. Besides having almost five times the capacity, it’s also a proper seated theatre with the best sound in the city. However, that much-vaunted sound system seemed woefully absent when the band took the stage at nine sharp. Howling feedback punctuated the first three songs of the set, prompting Jeff Tweedy to fess up that the band had, in fact, skipped soundcheck that day and was now paying the price for their laziness. Sheepishly apologizing and promising an extra-long set to compensate, they let the sound crew sort things out and carried on with no more sonic gremlinery.

That did, however, set the tone for a most peculiar evening. After Mikael Jorgenson accidentally triggered the sample opening for “Shot In The Arm” one song too early, Jeff jokingly apologized for “the least professional show of this tour”. He also had to deal with an audience member who chose to run right to the front of the stage and try to engage Jeff in… something. Jeff was clearly perplexed by the incident and the mook stood there for all of “Hell Is Chrome” only to be shooed back to his seat by security after some of his buddies joined him up front. Otherwise they just seemed to be having a good time on this, the second-last stop on this leg of their North American tour. I was mildly disappointed that the setlist was very similar to the August show (last night’s setlist vs August’s setlist), but I suppose that it was only fair since more than 2000 of the people in attendance hadn’t been at that show and hadn’t seen the Ghost material performed live yet.

Things got more interesting in the first encore, which consisted of the two most contentious songs from A Ghost Is Born. “Less Than You Think” was a revelation, performed as a beautiful country-ish lament worlds removed from the static-y sonic experiment of its album form. The still managed to tack several minutes of noise onto the end, however, before launching into “Spiders” – ably performed but not as incendiary as the Mod Club show. The second encore consisted mainly of Mermaid Avenue material (in addition to “The Late Greats”) but the main highlight was the guest appearance on keys by Garth Hudson of The Band. The final encore, kept short by a firm curfew from the venue, paired up the rocktacular “I’m A Wheel” with the gorgeously pensive Bill Fay number “Be Not So Fearful”, which was an election-year dedication to any Americans in the audience.

So all in all – better than the August show? No. A disappointment? God no. It was still a superbly entertaining concert and if anything, it made me appreciate the opportunity I had to see them really tear it up in a club setting. I can’t imagine they’ll be playing anything smaller than theatres in the forseeable future. I will say this about a seated theatre, though – it’s much easier to get good low light photographs (less moving around), though it does limit the number of vantage points you have for getting shots. Being front row certainly helps, of course… Check em out.

np – The Fiery Furnaces / Blueberry Boat

By : Frank Yang at 9:50 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. John says:

    Frank, those were amazing seats you had. I’m still is shock about Garth Hudson showing up. As I said to the lady next to me who asked "Who’s that?"

    Before there was Wilco, before Uncle Tupelo there was the Band. Thats Garth Hudson. So if the Mod Club show is a 10, what was this show?

  2. Frank says:

    if i HAVE to assign a numerical rating, I’d have given this one a solid 8.5. Garth Hudson played with them on some festival dates this Summer but I was surprised he turned up here. Is he touring with them? Does he live around here? And yeah, good seats. I was pleased.

  3. Mike says:

    Hey Frank, I made a last minute decision to check out the Wilco show yesterday, and I’m so glad I did(even if I only had gallery seating). I enjoyed this one alot more than Wilco’s show at The Mod Club Theatre. I’ll probably post a review later on today. Great pics by the way…wish I had your seats. ;-)

  4. Andrew says:

    First time I’ve managed to catch Wilco live – amazing experiene in the perfect venue. Garth Hudson was a huge bonus.

  5. John says:


    Garth lives around TO, he was born in Stratford. (reading a bio on the band currently) He had his first solo disc out about a year ago.

  6. craig says:

    Frank, it seems like we both had similar Wilco experiences on this tour. I saw them at the 930 Club in DC back in June and the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in Baltimore a couple weeks ago. I came away with similar impressions — the 930 show was phenomenal, and the Baltimore show was really good but it didn’t have quite the same energy. Plus, the Meyerhoff show had a weird vibe to it as well.

    And great pictures, as always…

  7. Ms. Busybee says:

    fyi – it wasn’t a soundcheck issue but a board issue…apparently a one in a million problem. was at both shows…both were interesting.

  8. Richard says:

    First time I had seen Wilco live after years of missing them due to other commitments. I was very impressed, it’s a great line and I hope it sticks around for at least another tour/album. I have listened to ‘Ghost’ again since the show on Saturday and it all seems to make a lot more sense musically to me after seeing it performed live. I initially thought that the new material might bore me a little but I came away really glad that they played all but one of the tracks. Hard to pick a highlight from the set.