Wilco at The Capitol Theatre (photo by Emilio Herce)
On Thursday, March 30th, Wilco played the first of three sold-out shows at Port Chester’s Capitol Theatre. The residency was billed as a no-song-repeated three-night stand and shared similar trio runs in their native Chicago, as well as an upcoming series in Reykjavík, Iceland. The band is ostensibly supporting their 2022 album Cruel Country, though it’s unclear why they chose Port Chester, a small hamlet outside of NYC, when they have not performed in the city proper since their Yankee Hotel Foxtrot 20th Anniversary Tour (when they played four nights at Kings Theatre).
Not that I’m complaining. The Capitol is the hidden gem of NY music venues, a stunning 1800-cap cathedral of a room an hour from Grand Central by Metro-North. If an artist is performing in both the city and in Port Chester, I always pick the latter as it has always proven to be the superior concert experience (and you can also pre-game, responsibly, on the way up). It could be the palatial beauty of the room, or the venue and owner Peter Shapiro’s famous hospitality which drew the band to the Capitol, but I expect that it’s because Wlco, who will celebrate their 30th anniversary as a band next year, is at the stage of their career where they can do whatever the fuck they want.
Wilco has been described as the American Radiohead, maybe not so much in sound (theirs leans Americana and rangy folk rock to Radiohead’s dour post-apocalyptic pop), but certainly in terms of the sort of devotion they inspire, as well as the influence they’ve had on artists of younger generations. Their first night at Capitol was evidence of this. The crowd was admittedly older, but incredibly enthusiastic (I’ve never seen so many middle-aged white men absolutely lose their shit), and the energy was infectious.
Wilco at The Capitol Theater
Wilco opened with “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart,” as if to signal that they were not fucking around, which was followed by the equally powerful “Hints” and “One Wing.” The band seemed incredibly comfortable on stage, but in no way were they resting on their laurels. Instead, they played like a well-oiled machine, each member performing as if part of an orchestra, though with the wily looseness and playfulness intrinsic to Wilco’s music. I’ve always admired Jeff Tweedy for his deft songwriting, but this was the first time I’ve seen his band live, and I left impressed by the clarity and emotion of his vocals as well as the easy camaraderie he seemed to share with his band, which translated to a stellar performance. The band, a supergroup in their own right, elevated Tweedy’s songwriting, at times letting his lyrics breathe and knock you over, but also able to knock you over themselves with their controlled cacophony. Seeing Nels Cline rip a solo is not something you walk away from unscathed.
I’m thankful that Wilco’s setlist on Thursday was overrepresented by their albums Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, A.M., and Wilco (The Album), the albums which I’m most familiar with. I am admittedly (feel free to shame me) more of a fairweather Wilco fan, and even though I’ve been listening to the band for over a decade, and many of Tweedy’s songs are formative to my musical development, Thursday’s shows proved that I have so much left to explore in the Wilco extended universe. I cannot wait to dig in and evolve from a casual Wilco fan to a wholly insufferable one.
Scroll down for setlist, picts of the show (photos by Emilio Herce)
Setlist: I Am Trying to Break Your Heart, Hints, One Wing, Misunderstood, Far Far Away, War on War, If I Ever Was a Child, Hearts Hard to Find, Poor Places, Bull Black Nova, Country Disappeared, What Light, Shouldn’t Be Ashamed, I’m the Man Who Loves You, Random Name Generator, Passenger Side, Box Full of Letters, Falling Apart (Right Now) Encore: Via Chicago, Can’t Stand It, You Never Know, Outtasite (Outta Mind), I’m a Wheel