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”.
“Three-hour shows! Acoustic sets! Deep cuts! On-stage restaurant gift certificate giveaways! All of these factors made the Spring 2010 “An Evening With” tour one of the most revered among long-time fans. Initially starting with a hefty 33-35 song length, by the time the tour rolled into the central New Jersey town of Montclair, the show had expanded to occasionally hit 38 songs played over 3-plus hours onstage. The sets were so long that, in order to catch their collective breath, the band really did take a few moments mid-show to give away local restaurant gift certificates to a few lucky fans.
But quantity ain’t nothin’ without quality, and these shows have a high quantity of quality (see what we did there?). Perhaps the coolest aspect of these shows is how the performance morphs, via the noise-coda of “Poor Places”, from it’s initial hi-wattage electricity to an intimate mid-show acoustic set…and then back “up” again after “Airline To Heaven’s” crescendo. In addition to its counterbalance of timbre and dynamics, the acoustic set also provided a platform for the performance of rarely-played deep cuts; these Montclair shows include “Someday Some Morning Sometime”, “When You Wake Up Feeling Old”, and the deepest of deep tracks, “More Like The Moon” (featuring a beautiful extended Jeff Tweedy acoustic guitar solo). These shows also include powerful readings of the Big Star songs “In The Street” and “Thank You Friends” as a tribute to the then-recent passing of Wilco hero Alex Chilton.
All in all, the two shows in Montclair showcase a whopping 57 different songs, presenting a near-complete representation of what went down during that “An Evening With” tour.” – Marc Prizer