Wilco Ends Tour With Two Sold Out Shows In Austin (REVIEW/PHOTOS)

On the first night on Wilco’s sold out two-night run at Stubb’s in Austin, the Chicago band’s affable front man Jeff Tweedy proclaimed the outdoor venue his favorite place to play. This could be one of those throwaway lines that a musician says at every tour stop, but given the performances that ensued on both nights, Tweedy may have just meant it. After all, Wilco has a long and storied history at Stubb’s and in Austin, and it seemed more than a coincidence that they would close out their tour at a venue that’s intimate by their standards (roughly 2,000).

As has been the case on most shows from their recent tour, the first and last part of each night’s set was for the more serious fans. On both nights Wilco opened with a track-by-track performance of their new album Star Wars and closed with several songs played acoustically (more on that later). For a Wilco show that lasted two and a half hours, the short, 11-song album only took up a small chunk of time. Most fans embraced it as a listening experience and a chance to immerse themselves in the new tunes. The band was doing the same thing – playing the songs in straightforward fashion and gauging their effect. The songs on Star Wars are mostly lighter fare, leaning towards pop with a calculated grunginess throughout. The album as a whole grew on this writer by the second night, and it will be interesting to see what Wilco does with the songs as they integrate them into live sets alongside older material.

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Few bands could pull off a feat like playing their new album in its entirety before playing anything else, but Wilco fans are a fiercely loyal bunch, and they have also learned over the band’s twenty-year history that they will always deliver the goods. The goods came on night two with an impeccable Art Of Almost” played in a slower, ambient style that almost felt like dance music. Riding the high, the band jumped right into a “Via Chicago” that started with an alt-country tinge before bubbling into bombastic drum blasts. Those who attended both nights hardly minded the small handful of repeats, as the order of the setlist gave each song a fresh context. Whereas night one favored songs off Being There, night two did so with A Ghost Is Born. Both die-hards and casual fans were treated well at each show, singing along to favorites like “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart”, “Handshake Drugs”, and “Jesus Etc”, and playing air guitar to Nels Cline’s flawlessly shredded solo on “Impossible Germany”, the latter of which has proved over time to be one of the finest guitar moments in Wilco history.

It was the double encores of both nights that got the biggest response. These included a somewhat rare performance of “Spiders (Kidsmoke)” and the guest appearance of opener and fingerpicker William Tyler, who joined the band for a Led Zeppelin-esque performance of “Airline to Heaven”. The band also unplugged and played acoustic versions of some of their most beloved tunes, making for a strained experience for those who wanted to chat and a dream experience for those who love seeing Wilco do something different. John Stirratt’s performance of “It’s Just That Simple” on both nights was one of the most poignant moments, bringing to mind The Band’s charming Southern melancholy. But, surprisingly, the real highlights came in the form of covers (sort of). The rare inclusion of Uncle Tupelo’s “We’ve Been Had” was a personal favorite of the night, and seeing it acoustic added a campsite vibe, and the same effect added a special feeling to “California Stars” and the band’s cover of Doug Sahm’s “Give Back the Key to My Heart”.

Who cares if Stubb’s is Wilco’s favorite venue or not? The enthusiasm they brought on both nights of their tour-closing run was enough reassure even the most casual of fans that, regardless of the venue, they always bring an enticing performance worth catching.

Photos by Arthur VanRooy.

 

Setlists:

September 29, 2015
Austin, TX | Stubb’s Austin

01 – More…
02 – Random Name Generator
03 – The Joke Explained
04 – You Satellite
05 – Taste the Ceiling
06 – Pickled Ginger
07 – Where Do I Begin
08 – Cold Slope
09 – King of You
10 – Magnetized
11 – At Least That’s What You Said
12 – Camera
13 – I Am Trying to Break Your Heart
14 – Art of Almost
15 – You Are My Face
16 – Hummingbird
17 – Box Full of Letters
18 – Heavy Metal Drummer
19 – I’m the Man Who Loves You
20 – Dawned On Me
21 – Impossible Germany
22 – Red Eyed and Blue
23 – I Got You (At the End of the Century)
24 – Outtasite (Outta Mind)
Encore:
25 – Spiders (Kidsmoke)
Encore:
26 – Misunderstood
27 – I’m Always In Love
28 – It’s Just That Simple
29 – Casino Queen
30 – California Stars
31 – A Shot in the Arm

September 30, 2015
Austin, TX | Stubb’s Austin

01 – More…
02 – Random Name Generator
03 – The Joke Explained
04 – You Satellite
05 – Taste the Ceiling
06 – Pickled Ginger
07 – Where Do I Begin
08 – Cold Slope
09 – King of You
10 – Magnetized
11 – Handshake Drugs
12 – Art of Almost
13 – Via Chicago
14 – A Magazine Called Sunset
15 – I’m Always In Love
16 – Hummingbird
17 – Theologians
18 – I’m the Man Who Loves You
19 – Jesus. Etc.
20 – Born Alone
21 – Passenger Side
22 – Airline to Heaven
23 – Impossible Germany
24 – The Late Greats
Encore:
25 – Let’s Not Get Carried Away
26 – Kingpin
Encore:
27 – Misunderstood
28 – War On War
29 – We’ve Been Had
30 – It’s Just That Simple
31 – Give Back The Key To My Heart (Doug Sahm Cover)
32 – A Shot in the Arm

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