Chicago Theater
Chicago, Illinois
December 15, 2019

Source: DPA 4060 => Tascam DR-2d
Conversion: WAV => Soundforge Audio Cleaning Lab => FLAC

Location: ~30th row slightly right of center

Track listing:

Disc one (75:49):
(1) Bright Leaves (4:20)
(2) Before Us (3:20)
(3) I Am Trying to Break Your Heart (5:20)
(4) War On War (3:35)
(5) One and a Half Stars (4:12)
(6) Handshake Drugs (6:29)
(7) Side With The Seeds (4:58)
(8) Hummingbird (4:35)
(9) White Wooden Cross (3:40)
(10) Via Chicago (5:14)
(11) Bull Black Nova (7:03)
(12) Random Name Generator (4:16)
(13) Reservations (4:02)
(14) Impossible Germany (9:43)
(15) Banter (0:33)
(16) Jesus, Etc. (4:22)

Disc two (59:37):
(1) We Were Lucky (5:31)
(2) Love Is Everywhere (Beware) (4:12)
(3) Box Full of Letters (4:04)
(4) Everyone Hides (4:06)
(5) Theologians (3:38)
(6) I'm The Man Who Loves You (4:03)
(7) Spontaneous applause (1:03)
(8) Hold Me Anyway (4:11)
(9) Misunderstood (6:21)
(10) Encore break (2:30)
(11) I'm Always In Love (4:13)
(12) California Stars (5:02)
(13) The Late Greats (3:15)
(14) Tomorrow Never Knows (4:02) *
(15) I Wanna Destroy You (3:18) *

* w/Robyn Hitchcock

There are no fades applied, so if burning to CD you can break the discs anywhere you want.

First night of Wilco's four-night residency ("Winterlude") in Chicago. After a two-year hiatus from touring, the band returned with a new album which on the whole features stronger material than they've had on the last few albums, and they area obviously enjoying being back on the road. Chicago was happy to have them back home, and even the most moody songs were greeted joyously by a sold-out crowd that stood the entire show. The pacing followed their pattern in recent years of opening with more thoughtful, atmospheric songs and gradually transitioning to more uptempo material, leading to a crescendo of "hits" (tongue in cheek) at the end of the set. I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would (I have seen them 40+ times, but the last three albums left me rather cold), partly because my 16-year-old son has come to embrace them as his new favorite band and was enraptured from start to finish. I'd say that of the seven new songs they performed, I think four of them worked in a live setting, and the other three were plodding. That said, most Wilco fans usually find their new material has to "marinate" for a couple years before they appreciate it, so one may feel differently about the new material after a few listens.

In terms of sound quality, this one really surprised me. I was at the back of the floor -- just under the lip of the overhanging balcony -- and didn't expect much. I got the benefit of repeater speakers that were pointed right at me, and though the audience behind me was raucous, they are largely absent from the recording (glad I used cards and not omni mics). There is clapping and laughing between songs, but the music itself is very clean. Wilco's soundman Stan, as usual, did a superb job of representing all instruments and vocals appropriately - the sound was fantastic, and the great acoustics of the theater helped.

Robyn Hitchcock (the opener) joined the band during the encore for a cover of The Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows" (worth the price of admission in itself) and his song "I Wanna Destroy You" (which Uncle Tupelo covered in their heyday), which was a great, if awkward, way to end the show.

If Wilco announces that they are going to release this show as part of their Roadcase series, I will have it removed from the tracker, so download now if you're interested. If you're curious how their new material plays live, this is worth the download.

Many thanks to Wilco for playing a show in Chicago on my birthday for the third time in the past decade. Mp3 samples are included in the comments.