CONCERT: Wilco and Yo La Tengo in South Bend

Wilco - 28

You’ve probably heard it all before, and I’m not going to tell you anything different. Wilco may be the best live band playing today, and after seeing them on Friday night at Coveleski ballpark in South Bend I can now (finally) attest to that fact. I just can’t think of many bands right now who are in their position: who’ve been playing long enough to accumulate a deep catalog of genuinely incredible songs, and who just love to play them. In addition to that, I’d argue that right now might be the best time to see them, considering that they’re not touring behind a recent album but are instead playing some of the most varied sets they ever have – their 2 1/2 hour set Friday night was pretty evenly split between pre- and post-A Ghost Is Born material, leaning just slightly toward the older albums (lots of YHF and Being There). Simply put, it was one of the best rock and roll shows I’ve ever seen. In addition to the fantastic music, the outdoor atmosphere was fun and summery and there were jokes being made all night – about Zumba, Glenn Kotche’s broken toe, and pigeon crap (Tweedy: “back in the old days roadies would crap in our mouths… and we’d keep on playing!“)

Yo La Tengo was also fantastic, and it was pretty fitting to see them at a ballpark (their name is Spanish for an outfielder’s cry “I have it!”) – they played mostly cuts from their last two records plus a few songs from 1997’s I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One, and a Neil Young cover in memory of Ben Keith who passed away last week. They played a good mix, ranging from the electric mayhem of “And The Glitter Is Gone” to the piano shuffle of “Mr. Tough”, with plenty of noisy interludes in between. Somewhere in their set Ira Kaplan explained why Wilco was headlining the night and Yo La Tengo wasn’t: before the show he’d peaked into Wilco’s dressing room and saw them practicing, while he and his two bandmates snuck into the ballpark’s storage shed and took pictures in the mascot costumes (later that night Tweedy insisted “Don’t let them fool you – they practice a lot…. I’m taking pictures”).

We were down in front for all of Yo La Tengo’s set and about the first half of Wilco’s. When we’d finally had enough of the drunken masses we moved back to the lawn area where families had laid out blankets and parents were dancing with children to songs like “Forget The Flowers” and “Heavy Metal Drummer”. After that we moved back to the grandstands for the last 45 minutes or so and sat next to a group of older fans with binoculars and notepads, excitedly jotting down setlists and geeking out when they heard the first few lines of Neil Young’s “Broken Arrow”. What I’m trying to say here is that Wilco brings people together. All kinds of people, of all ages. They are that great. Here’s a few other random thoughts: (1) “A Shot In The Arm” is probably one of the best sing-along rock songs ever written. (2) I finally understand why people adore “Impossible Germany” so much – that song was MADE to be played live. Holy cow. (3) Glenn Kotche is some kind of superman – I mean he has to be to go from standing on top of his drums, sticks in the air, back-lit like some sort of rock-god, to suddenly jumping down to hit the first beat of “I’m The Man Who Loves You” perfectly – I mean, come on. That’s just nuts. And (4), after the show we stopped by the only Del Taco in Indiana and while enjoying a couple Chicken Soft Tacos and a Double Del Cheeseburger I sat back and realized life just doesn’t get much better than this.

Both setlists and a couple mp3’s after the jump:

mp3: Wilco – A Shot In The Arm
from the album Summerteeth (buy it here)

mp3: Yo La Tengo – Mr. Tough
from the album I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass (buy it here)

Yo La Tengo’s setlist:

Autumn Sweater

And The Glitter Is Gone

Stockholm Syndrome

The Weakest Part

Mr. Tough

Here To Fall

For The Turnstiles (Neil Young cover)

Periodically Double or Triple

Nothing To Hide

Sugarcube

Pass The Hatchet, I Think I’m Goodkind

Wilco’s setlist:

Sunken Treasure

Ashes of American Flags

Either Way

I Am Trying To Break Your Heart

Bull Black Nova

You Are My Face

One Wing

Company In My Back

A Shot In The Arm

Side With The Seeds

She’s A Jar

Say You Miss Me

Impossible Germany

Forget The Flowers

I’ll Fight

Box Full Of Letters

Handshake Drugs

Jesus, Etc.

Can’t Stand It

You Never Know

Heavy Metal Drummer

Walken

I’m The Man Who Loves You

Encore 1:

Broken Arrow (Buffalo Springfield cover)

The Late Greats

Red-Eyed and Blue

I Got You (At The End Of The Century)

Encore 2:

Thank You Friends (Big Star cover, with Yo La Tengo)

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