We had three tickets to see Wilco and only two people to go. A friend who belonged to the other ticket had to cancel at the last moment. I had posted to message boards and asked friends to come, but no one responded.
Free tickets to see one of the greatest live bands playing today and no one responded. I think I need to find new friends.
So we arrived at the venue early, hoping we might find some hapless soul willing to buy the one ticket. Almost immediately we found some guys on bikes with signs saying they were buying tickets. There was a little haggling, and I found myself on the losing end of that. Ten bucks and I was free one ticket. That’s a lot less than I paid, but a little more than nothing.
The Murat is a beautiful old theatre in downtown Indianapolis. Having arrived early to unload the ticket and having already done such, we walked into the entryway of the theatre to await the doors to open. Many folks were already there. An odd thing this was to me as we had assigned seats so there was literally no reason to arrive so early, but there we were.
Our earliness was paid off as a young man came out stating that the band had asked him take fan requests. My mind went racing. I was dying to come up with something obscure and unique – something that the band would see and love and no doubt talk about from the stage. Maybe even ask me to come on down and sing it with them.
Instead, I came up with something off the new album, something they would undoubtedly play even without my request. “Hate it Here” is possibly my favorite song off of Sky Blue Sky, and I was most anxious to hear those Stones riffs live.
Sitting back down I encouraged my wife to choose something but she’s shy about these things, and couldn’t come up with anything. I suggested “Outtasite (Outta mind)” off of an older album, Being There, and she stood up to make the request.
“No, wait,” I said, “pick something off of the Woody Guthrie tribute.” “What’s the name of the one with the repeat? Oh yes, it’s ‘Walt Whitman’s Niece,’ choose that one.”
Yes, I know that’s one that Billy Bragg sang lead on, but Wilco played most of the music and they did the backup parts, which would be awesome live with all the audience singing the repeat.
The wife goes and makes the request coming back with a puzzled look. A few minutes later she begins cursing herself, when I ask why she says, “Walt Whitman’s Knees.”
What?” I ask.
“I wrote the song down as ‘Walt Whitman’s Knees.’ I knew that wasn’t right when I wrote it but I couldn’t think of the right name.”
We laughed and laughed at that. I hoped, I prayed Tweedy would see it and laugh with the band and say something about my silly wife from the stage.
We had quite literally the last seats in the house – upper balcony, last row, very last seats stage left. My view was a little obstructed by an archway, but overall the stage was quite visible.
A band I had never heard of, Low, opened. I won’t say they were bad, but I won’t deny it either. I normally do my best to dig an opening band. I usually get very angry at the crowd when they talk through the opening act. This time, I was kind of with them.
It isn’t that the music wasn’t any good, it was they were in the wrong venue, opening for the wrong band. They had a very relaxed, ethereal feel – think Mazzy Star or Luna and you’ll come close. For the wide-open acoustics of the Murat, they sounded too muddled. When we’re all jazzed to hear the loud, ruckus of Wilco, relaxed and ethereal is not what we want, or not what I wanted anyway.
Luckily their set was short and Wilco came out with a fury. I tried writing down their setlist, but it was so dark in my little corner that I quickly realized there is no way I would be able to read my scratchings. And looking at them now, they are all a mess.
This is the tightest band in show business. Even though half the members have only been with the band a few short years, they play like a well-oiled machine. Nells Cline, the guitarist, is especially amazingly awesome. The guy simply tore it up. The roof was on fire, let me tell you.
They stuck primarily to songs off of their last three albums. I don’t know if this was because Tweedy likes his newer stuff more, of that most of the band hasn’t been on board for longer than those albums, or these are just the songs the fans prefer to hear. This fan would have appreciated some more older stuff, but I take what I can get.
From our in-the-rafter seats the sound was a little less than spectacular and I struggled to differentiate between some of the instruments, but the band was playing like Moses on fire. Enthusiasm oozed from everybody as they jumped and shook and moved like a giant, twitching snake.
About mid-show they played “Hate It Here” and I had to poke my wife with a little “they’re playing this for me” even though most likely they would have played it without my request. Still, it added a fun element to the show, which I would guess is the very reason they do the requests.
It was a darn fine version too, what with the big sing-along chorus and the fun lyrics about washing clothes and what-not. The whole show was filled with a nice little moment and fun sing-alongs. Although, every time I see Wilco I am reminded of how few of their lyrics I actually know.
I’m just not a lyrics guy. I have a terrible short-term memory and as such, I have difficulty remembering lyrics past the moment they are sung. Instead, I concentrate on the music and turn into one of those flailing arms to the beat of the guitar riff guys.
There was a lot of arm pumping this night. After a double encore with the surprise old album shot of “Outtasite (Outta Mind)” we went home happy.
They never did play “Walt Whitman’s Niece” and no one but me made fun of my wife’s mistake, but even so it was a darn fine night of music.
1. A Shot In The Arm
2. Side With The Seeds
3. You Are My Face
4. I Am Trying To Break Your Heart
6. Handshake Drugs
7. War On War
8. Impossible Germany
9. Sky Blue Sky
10. Jesus, Etc.
11. Hate It Here
13. Shake It Off
14. I’m The Man Who Loves You
16. Sunken Treasure
17. Spiders (Kidsmoke)
18. Heavy Metal Drummer
19. Outtasite (Outta Mind)
20. California Stars
Thanks to Wilcobase for the setlist.