Sunday, May 15, 2011

You'll come back again

Other entertainment options in Denton

Eight months! Nearly eight months passed between the last time I saw a Wilco show, in Scotland last September, and the end of the drought last weekend. For me, that's a mighty long time between shows. Not that I had much a choice, of course. Still, it felt awfully good to be on my way to see the band again - this time, down south.

Saturday night's show in Denton was an interesting one to start out with. It was held in a building at the University of North Texas: a lecture hall that had been converted into a concert venue for the evening. The seats were reserved, but it was apparent before the show began that it wasn't going to stay that way. There was far too much empty space between the stage and the seats for the crowd to remain docile. Sending more mixed signals was a barrier that had been erected about three feet from the stage. Barricades suggest that people are allowed to stand on one side of them, but security was enforcing a no-fan zone all the way back to the seats; a good ten feet or so more in some places. Thus, for the first half of the show, a complicated dance was performed. Fans would creep up, and then creep up a little more, then be shooed back by security, then creep up a little more, and so on. Eventually, there was only a foot or so between the intrepid front-line fans and the barrier. When Jeff made an exasperated comment and asked if everyone could just stand at the barricade itself, there was no more pretending. The reserved show officially turned into a GA show.

The crowd trended young, at least up front, and was very enthusiastic. I was, too. The shows on this short spring tour didn't remotely approach the length we saw last spring on the Evening With tour - in fact, they were a few songs shorter than typical setlists of the past. No matter: I was glad enough to see Wilco, period. We won't be hearing any new songs until Solid Sound next month, but the band played a nice mix that was - fine by me - heavy on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. In fact, the written setlist had even more YHF intended for the encore, but it was not to be. The rowdy crowd discouraged choices like "Poor Places" and "Reservations," in favor of faster numbers like "Hoodoo Voodoo" and "I Got You."

For me, Denton was a warm-up for the main event: Sunday night's show at Cain's Ballroom in Tulsa. I adore Cain's, and this was my third trip. If I can help it, I'll never miss a Wilco show there - in fact, I'd love to expand my Cain's resume. As expected, the wait in line was a hot one. The temperature was in the 80's, and felt much warmer in the sun. After the spring we've had so far in Wisconsin, it seemed like more than a fair trade. When we were finally let inside, the air conditioning felt delicious.

Tulsa's crowd was great. Everyone roared approval after each song, often stretching from the end of one to the first chords of the next. It was also great to be standing with so many friends. God bless weekend concerts! The band seemed to enjoy themselves too. Jeff called Cain's their home away from home, asking the owner of Cain's - sitting in front of the barrier for a few songs - if that was okay. It was.  Wilco delivered a mostly upbeat set, as befitted the mood of the night. There were a couple of Mother's Day shout-outs (including a heartfelt bellow from Glenn as he stood on his drum stool before "I'm the Man Who Loves You,") and a couple of Woody Guthrie songs were played in honor of his home state. Well, they were tour standards, but the home state was acknowledged. The last Woody song was also the last song of the night; another "Hoodoo Voodoo" closer. Only, this time, crew member Josh busted out the cowbell and went to town. Dear lord. Typically he stays toward the back near the drums when he joins in, but on Sunday he went all out: getting down with Pat, dancing up to Jeff. It was funny, entertaining, and disturbingly erotic. I now know more than one lady who's interested in finding out if Josh is available for parties. Kudos to him, and the band, for ending the night - and the short tour - on a high note.

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