The ‘Wilco Weekend’ Finale at The Capitol Theatre in Port Chester was a Show for the Ages

Kicking off the spring with a tour in support of their twelfth studio album (Cruel Country, dBpm Records) released in May 2022, recorded live at their studio known as The Loft, Wilco played three consecutive sold-out performances this past weekend at The Capitol Theatre located in the center of downtown Port Chester. As one of 1,800 lucky participants to attend the Chicagoans residency finale on Saturday night (April Fool’s Day) and witness their multi-genre talents, all were treated to an eclectic blend of experimental rock, indie art rock and alternative country.

Dubbed the “American Radiohead” due to their stylistically diverse catalog, Wilco’s career-spanning trio of shows at the iconic concert hall constructed nearly a century ago boasted no repeat songs. Their setlists from Thursday, Friday and Saturday night included a whopping total of sixty-nine different offerings, making for the perfect recipe of deep cuts and crowd favorites that were presented to their adoring fans.

Promptly at 7:30 pm, fellow Chicago natives Horsegirl unassumingly strolled onto the stage. Formed a little more than three years ago when they bonded over their shared love for acts like Sonic Youth, Stereolab and Pavement, the punk-infused trio of indie-rockers comprised of Nora Cheng (guitar, vocals), Penelope Lowenstein (guitar, vocals) and Gigi Reece (drums) have been providing support each night of Wilco’s residency at The Cap, including Wilco’s three night residency a couple of weeks back at the Riviera Theatre in Chicago.

Speaking of Pavement, I first witnessed the immense talent of these young women back in October 2022 when they also opened for said band at Kings Theatre in Brooklyn. Although it was merely six months ago, their growth as a live act has blossomed since then, and they are surely on the right path to a bright future in the music business.

With a palpable, undeniable chemistry, Horsegirl performed a 28-minute set filled with guitar feedback and hypnotic melodies during a collection of songs taken from their debut album (Versions of Modern Performance, Matador Records) released in June 2022, including Homage to “Birdnoculars,” “World of Pots and Pans,” “Option 8” and “Anti-glory.”

As I stood in the photo pit talking with fans along the steel barricade, all of whom were waiting with eager anticipation for the roadies to finish preparing the stage and Wilco’s instruments, I reminisced about the very first time I witnessed the greatness of Wilco. It was here at The Cap, way back on October 30, 2014, when Wilco were celebrating their 20 year anniversary as a rock ‘n’ roll outfit. The night I was in attendance, like tonight, was also the third consecutive sold-out evening of a residency stint that has hosted legendary artists the likes of Janis Joplin, Traffic, Pink Floyd and the Grateful Dead.

At 8:30 pm sharp, when the house lights suddenly went dark, I raised my trusted Nikon “Kamera” to my eye as the sextet of frontman and guitarist Jeff Tweedy, guitarist Nels Cline, bassist John Stirratt, drummer Glenn Kotche, multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone and keyboardist Mikael Jorgensen took the stage to thunderous applause. Tonight’s two-hour, 23-song set that would bridge nine studio albums altogether – only offerings from 1995’s debut album (A.M.), 2015’s Star Wars and 2016’s Schmilco would be absent – commenced with two tunes from their fifth studio album (A Ghost Is Born, 2004), including “At Least That’s What You Said,” followed by “Spiders (Kidsmoke).”

As I remained in the photo pit for the third song of the night (“The Universe”), taken from the newest addition to their discography Cruel Country, I reminded myself to unglue my eyes from the band in front of me and occasionally glance at the thousands of fan faces behind me. The expressions I witnessed included sheer joy and complete awe, and even one guy headbanging incessantly as he clutched the rail in front of him with both hands. Then, with the song nearing its end, Cline’s guitar tech quickly emerged from the dark shadows at stage right and began working on what appeared to be the pedal board.

While the technical snafu lasted for several minutes until it was successfully resolved by either a repair or a complete change-out of the rig, it resulted in an impromptu setlist change as “Jesus, Etc.” (Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, 2001) moved up to the fourth song slot – it was originally slated to be the last song before the encore. Tweedy, taking advantage of the rare down time, also executed a “Tight Five Comedy Set” where he explained the rules behind winning the “Best Behaved” trophy awarded to only one lucky audience member each night. He also enlightened us that even Horsegirl claimed the top prize back at one of Wilco’s recent Chicago gigs.

The bulk of the main set, which included one musical treasure after another, had Wilco fans dancing with each other, as well as in the aisles. Whereas queues of fans had inundated the venue’s bars and merch tables earlier in the night, they were non-existent now that Wilco was playing. With too many incredible tracks to dive into for this concert review, a few highlights (to name but a few) included the title track from 2011’s The Whole Love, two more songs from Cruel Country (“Mystery Binds” and “Tired of Taking It Out on You”), “Impossible Germany” from 2007’s Sky Blue Sky (there were six total tracks performed tonight from this formative LP) and “Laminated Cat,” a cover song dating back to 2003 by the indie rock supergroup of Tweedy and Kotche, along with multi-instrumentalist Jim O’Rourke of Sonic Youth.

After nearly 100 minutes on a non-stop musical journey, Tweedy and his bandmates, in prime form all night long, collected their breath backstage. After a short recess, our heroes reappeared onstage with Tweedy exclaiming, “I hope you all had as much fun as we have,” before launching into “The Late Greats” (A Ghost Is Born). The gifts kept on coming in the four song encore with “Heavy Metal Drummer” (Yankee Hotel Foxtrot), “A Shot in the Arm” (from 1999’s third studio album Summerteeth) and the final number, “On and On and On” (Sky Blue Sky).

From the box office to the security personnel to the bartenders to the ushers and of course, to the fans, it’s always a memorable time at The Cap, and Saturday night’s closing show was certainly no exception. One of America’s most critically acclaimed acts, Wilco’s rich history of music for nearly the past three decades has made them a beloved band on a generational scale. My NYS Music colleague Chris McShane, a diehard fan since 2007 who attended all three residency shows at The Cap and has seen them perform live more than forty times, proclaimed “What’s amazing is that Wilco is still getting better and better over time, and their three-night run at The Cap had all of their incredible skills on full display. If and when they return to the venue, you’ll want to grab a ticket, whether you’ve never seen them before or are a seasoned veteran of a Wilco show.”

Next up for Wilco is a trip to Reykjavik, Iceland for another three night, sold-out residency on April 6-8. The spring tour continues back in the United States with a stopover at the High Water Festival in North Charleston, South Carolina (April 16), followed by eleven more dates culminating in Athens, Ohio on April 30. Additionally, Tweedy will be performing solo at the Vic Theatre in Chicago, Illinois for a pair of dates on May 19 and 20.

Wilco are also set to release an alternate version to their seminal album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot for Record Store Day on April 22, dubbed Crosseyed Strangers: An Alternate Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Only 4,500 copies of the vinyl will be available to purchase through participating record stores, so you’ll have to act fast!

Wilco Setlist: At Least That’s What You Said > Spiders (Kidsmoke) > The Universe >  Jesus, Etc. >  You Are My Face >  Whole Love >  Mystery Binds >  I’ll Fight >  Side With the Seeds >  One and a Half Stars > Tired of Taking It Out on You >  Everyone Hides >  Impossible Germany >  Sunken Treasure >  Laminated Cat (Loose Fur cover) >  Reservations > Either Way > Hate It Here >  Dawned on Me > Encore: The Late Greats > Heavy Metal Drummer > A Shot in the Arm > On and On and On



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