Photos + Review by Anthony Bauer
Hot off the heels of a 3-night run in their hometown of Chicago, Wilco made their return to The Capitol Theatre in Port Chester for an epic 3-night run of its own before they escape off to Iceland for yet another 3-night run. The band is out on the road on a mini spring tour in support of their latest and absolutely stunning album, Cruel Country which was released last year (via dbpm records). This marked the band’s first visit back to Port Chester since their 2-night run back in 2016 and along for the ride to kick things off was fellow Chicagoians, Horsegirl.
We’ve been hearing nothing but good things about Horsegirl since the announcement and release of their debut album Versions of Modern Performance (via Matador Records) last year, and we were very excited to catch their opening set. Opening for such a big band like Wilco can be a daunting task as sometimes you don’t know how the crowd will react, but the band got an enormous reaction from the crowd and definitely made a lot of new fans. The 3-piece sounded absolutely massive and filled the space out no problem. It was great to see how comfortable they were and we can’t wait to see what’s next for the band as we know they’ll be back in the NYC area later this summer.
Before I go any further I have a confession to make: although this review is catered more towards night 3, I was lucky enough to be in attendance for all 3 sold-out shows and being in the thick of it in general admission the first two nights. Getting several viewpoints of the band during this 3-night run was an absolute treat and as a longtime fan of the band, I can’t say enough about how great these crowds were. Shows at The Capitol Theatre are always great, but throw Wilco in the mix with a 3-night run (with no repeats) and you’re bound to have a special experience one way or another.
For night 3, they opened with the out-of-this-world one-two punch of ‘At Least That’s What You Said,’ directly into ‘Spiders (Kidsmoke)’ from A Ghost Is Born and returning back down to earth oddly enough with the aptly titled ‘The Universe’ from 2022’s Cruel Country. Placing ‘Spiders’ in the opening 3 songs just set the tone and energy for the rest of the night. One other thing that was very noticeable all three nights was that all of the songs off of Cruel Country already sound so established and so well lived in within the set which is amazing. They don’t stand out for the wrong reasons of being too new and not meshing with the older material. In fact, several songs off the latest album seemingly had slightly longer, more ‘dead-esque’ vibes to them that I didn’t quite realize until hearing them played live at of all venues, the Capitol Theatre. All of these new songs absolutely soar live and you can tell the band is having an absolute blast playing them live.
Each night frontman Jeff Tweedy noted that they were giving out trophies for the best-behaved audience member which at first I thought was a joke but then on his amp was an actual award that was picked up and given out to a lucky fan every night. For night 3, Tweedy first attempted to give the award to Nels Cline due to his pedalboard suffering a severe meltdown early on in the set to which Cline politely declined. During the frenzy to fix the pedalboard, the band was just kind of standing around waiting, and then Tweedy just kicked into Yankee Hotel Foxtrot staple ‘Jesus, etc.’ without Cline but with the entire crowd singing along. While Cline’s guitar work was missed during the song, his pedalboard was soon fixed shortly after which seemed to only fuel Cline during the remainder of the set.
After that pedalboard meltdown, every solo from that point on was even more potent and absolutely scorching. Setlist standout ‘Impossible Germany’ is always epic and but Cline entered another dimension during this song, seemingly diverting and feeding any frustrations from the earlier technical issues directly into the solo. This was followed by ‘Sunken Treasure’ off of 1996’s Being There directly into the loudest, most jam-filled version of ‘Laminated Cat’ that I’ve ever heard the band play (where again, Cline entered another dimension along with the rest of the band).
There was absolutely no way we were missing even one of these three shows (with no repeats), so getting to experience all three was a real treat. Getting to see one of the best live bands on the planet play in one of the best venues in all of the tri-state area (and quite possibly one of the best venues on the entire East Coast) is something we don’t take for granted. This was personally my first, second, and third show of 2023 and this run will be hard to top for best shows of the year and it’s only April. It was quite a cathartic and reaffirming experience being in a sold-out space with people singing and jamming along with the band who seem to be in this insane groove right now.
See all upcoming Wilco tour dates here (including the return of Sky Blue Sky festival in Mexico) and if the band is coming anywhere close to you… do yourself a favor and find a way to these shows, you won’t be sorry.
Find a full gallery from opener Horsegirl as well as a full gallery + setlist from Wilco (from night 1, night 2 and night 3) below.
Wilco setlist (from nights 1, 2, and 3):
Wilco Night 3 setlist (in order of how it was actually played):
At Least That’s What You Said
You Are My Face
Side With the Seeds
One and a Half Stars
Tired of Taking It Out on You
Laminated Cat [Loose Fur cover]
Hate It Here
Dawned on Me
– Encore Break –
The Late Greats
Heavy Metal Drummer
A Shot in the Arm
On and On and On
*moved up in the set due to the technical difficulties