After crossing, un-crossing, and re-crossing the Canadian border a few days earlier, Wilco undertook a week-long stay on the Great White North side of things in early July 2006. This jaunt featured the introduction of two additional songs from the forthcoming “Sky Blue Sky” album (a third song, “Walken,” had already been in the repertoire for over a year), as well as a(nother) new arrangement of Spiders (Kidsmoke).
This particular show from The Playhouse features an excellent recording of the band in typical white-hot mid-tour form. Beginning with what is surely one of their most evocative opening songs, “Hell Is Chrome” forces those who just want to let their rocks roll to sit/stand at rapt attention. Four songs in, we get a first glimpse at “Sky Blue Sky” in the form of “What Light”, featuring some intro and first verse guitar flourishes from Nels Cline that would later be excised from the live arrangement. The biggest highlight comes a few songs later: the first (and one of the few) live performances of the unreleased (until now!) “Let’s Fight”. This rarity was first attempted during the “A Ghost Is Born” sessions, and then re-attempted, but never completed, during the recording of “Sky Blue Sky”. This is followed by the aforementioned “Spiders”, with its new ending whereby the band fades down to the sole sound of Glenn’s bass drum, only to then abruptly silence that and leave the audience to (hopefully) keep time via handclaps. Future versions of this arrangement gave the audience sufficient time and rope to figuratively hang themselves (it’s hard to clap in time at a rock show), but this one keeps things short and crisp before the final instrumental chorus comes crashing through.
Other standouts include a very rocking “A Shot in The Arm” and a beautiful extended (albeit slightly undermixed) solo from Mr. Cline on “Ashes of American Flags”.
– Marc Prizer