WILCO - Live in 1997
Looking back, I didn't have a whole lot of reasons for going to school at the University of Missouri, in Columbia, MO. They had a reputation for having a great journalism school. I got a little scholarship money thrown my way. More important than any of that, though? Uncle Tupelo played that town all the time.
That was until right before the summer of 1994, when the band parted ways after a final concert in St. Louis. I remember hearing about it from the cute girl who worked at one of Omaha's (now defunct) trashier record stores. I was crushed.
Luckily, I wouldn't have to wait long for Jeff Tweedy and Jay Farrar to start two separate bands from the remnants of UT (Wilco and Son Volt, respectively) that would play Columbia's Blue Note club a couple of times a year. In November of 1997, I was working at a record store called Slacker's CDs and Games. Every once in a while, employees at the store could pick shows that they wanted to see and the managers at the store would try to get them on the guest list. On the night of the 4th, I worked a closing shift with my friend Aaron and we asked them to call about getting us into the sold-out Wilco. They got us on the list for what would turn out to be one of the best concerts I had ever seen.
The most amazing thing about the show was the fact that the band looked like they were about to die. I've seen Jeff Tweedy looking pretty haggard, but his appearance this night was almost scary. You could tell the band was exhausted. If you look over their setlist, you'll notice that at this point in their excruciatingly long tour in support of their awesome BEING THERE double album, they were up for trying anything... including covers of tunes by the Buzzcocks, Daniel Johnston, Led Zeppelin covers (sung by a bald roadie named J.P.) to Uncle Tupelo tracks and even one of the earliest appearances of "She's a Jar" (which would eventually wind up on Wilco's 1999 album SUMMERTEETH).
Below is the setlist to that show, along with a few thoughts on 6 of the tracks that I'm including in downloadable form:
WILCO - Columbia MO Blue Note - 11/4/97
2. Far, Far Away
3. Forget the Flowers
4. Sugar Baby: This Doc Boggs cover was the first of a ton of songs I'd never heard the band do before. Since this was the tail end of their tour, I think the band had shed a lot of songs it was tired of playing and started getting creative with the setlist. Some of the people I saw this show with were disappointed because of that, but I've always been happy to see bands go off on strange tangents. At least you're getting a unique show.
5. That's Not the Issue: A great song off of Wilco's debut album, A.M., and one they never play live anymore. I love Tweedy's voice during that quieter part near the end, when he croaks out "I'm leavin'! I'm leavin' now!"
6. She's a Jar
7. Someday Soon
8. New Madrid
9. Red Eyed & Blue
10. I Got You
11. Someone Else's Song
12. I Must be High
13. Passenger Side (punk version): This song is pretty much the novelty "hit" from A.M., a funny little number about drugs, cars and suspended licenses. It's my theory that the punk version of this song was created by the band to speed through the audience favorite as quickly as possible. The most hilarious thing about this version is that after the band has finished playing, you hear an audience member scream "Play the whole thing!", as if the band hadn't just gone through all the verses. Tweedy, who was starting to look really exhausted at this point, shakes his head. "Play what whole thing? That was the whole thing." Tweedy turned to Jay Bennett and they both had a laugh, and then...
14. Passenger Side (Stones lounge version): the band decides to do the whole damned song again, just to appease the idiot who missed it the first time. They slow the original song's tempo down and turn it into something resembling a drunken R&B tune.
15. Hotel Arizona
18. Outtasite (Outta Mind)
19. James Alley Blues
20. Auld Triangle
21. True Love Will Find You in the End
22. Ever Fallen in Love: Cover of a Buzzcocks tune. Sadly, it would be a couple of years before I really discovered how f#$king great the Buzzcocks were.
23. Casino Queen
24. We've Been Had
25. Immigrant Song
26. Gun: May be my favorite Uncle Tupelo song. That last verse, where he sings "Crawling back to you now / I sold my guitar to the girl next door," gets me every time. This was probably the third encore, and after this song I caught the only drumstick I've ever caught at a rock show. I still have it.
Wilco's home page
More Wilco info
Slacker's CDs and Games in Columbia, MO
Columbia, MO's Blue Note