Concert Review - Wilco at 20 Monroe, November 4th, 2019

There I was, standing anxiously on my porch counting down the minutes as my ride was running late. When alt-rock legends Wilco play 20 minutes from your town, you can't be late. But of course, we were. Fashionably late to Grand Rapids' fine intermediate venue, 20 Monroe Live, located in the heart of the city. 

As we opened the doors we swam into the sea of people as Wilco was jumping into their 2nd song of the night, Before Us, off their new album Ode to Joy released just a month earlier. For those who don't know, Wilco is a iconic rock coalition formed from the split of 90s alt-country band Uncle Tupelo. Since then primary songwriter and singer Jeff Tweedy has lead this alt-rock project thru it's country phase and into pop, sonicness, and noise that they make now. Ever since the release of 2004's Ghost is Born, Wilco has been Jeff Tweedy, John Stirratt (bass guitar), Nels Cline (lead guitar), Glenn Kotche (Drums), Pat Sansone (multi-instrumentalist), and Mikael Jorgensen (keys). 

As a unit they've recorded 6 albums with this lineup and with Ode to Joy they've reached back to their roots of core-songwriting with a sonic presence, a theme that was felt for most of the night in Grand Rapids. After two new ones we got cult classics "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart" and "War on War" off their defining record Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, a album we heard 3 more songs off of that night. Almost every album got a small highlight as Wilco crammed 28 songs into the night. Some of the many highlights of the night were Tweedy singing the wrong note at the beginning of "If I Ever Was a Child", the extended jam at the end of "Laminated Cat" (a Loose Fur song), the guitar harmonies in "Impossible Germany", the noise in "Via Chicago", the repeated "nothing, nothing, nothing" at the end of "Misunderstood", and the fake encore where the band finishes a song and Tweedy says "Hey, were back for our encore" and continues to play.

And as if the music wasn't enough, there is plenty to watch for when Wilco plays. Particularly the way drummer Glenn Kotche plays his kit, between his drum talk-box, spiral china, double mallet hits, intense accenting, or brush flipping, he is a machine to be reckoned with. Or the shear force of guitarist Nels Cline who fuses the advant-garde sound with jazz and makes it blend with folk songs. The accompanied lights made the show a little more intimate as well.

The crowd didn't miss one second of the show as huge applause followed every song with the "I love you Jeff" 's in between. Even Tweedy commented on the the rowdiness of the crowd, questioning whether is was a Monday night or not. For the real encore, Wilco came back out to do some acoustic numbers with banjo, leaving us off on the classic ender "The Late Greats"

For someone who has seen this group 12 times, they have yet to disappoint, every show getting a little more special. I can only imagine that will keep rocking theaters and halls well into old age releasing their 50th record, the fans behind them still wanting more.

Favorite track: We Were Lucky

Setlist:

Bright Leaves

Before Us

I Am Trying to Break Your Heart

War On War

One and a Half Stars

If I Ever Was A Child

Handshake Drugs

Hummingbird

White Wooden Cross

Via Chicago

How to Fight Loneliness

Laminated Cat (aka Not For The Season)

Random Name Generator

Reservations

We Were Lucky

Love Is Everywhere (Beware)

Impossible Germany

Jesus, Etc.

Forget the Flowers

Box Full of Letters

Everyone Hides

I'm Always In Love

Theologians

I'm the Man Who Loves You

Hold Me Anyway

Misunderstood

  • ENCORE:
  • California Stars
  • The Late Greats

- Ryne's Reviews