CONCERT RECAP / PHOTOS: WILCO @ Orpheum, New Orleans 9.28.15

On Monday night, Wilco (w/ the opening assistance of William Tyler) played the first rock concert in over a decade in The Orpheum Theater, a 1,500 capacity Beaux Arts style hall that reopened just eleven days prior to last night’s show over a decade after being severely flooded in Hurricane Katrina. Located just off the edge of the French Quarter, The Orpheum Theater is the latest downtown theater to reopen in the Big Easy, following behind the Joy (2011), Civic (2013), Saenger (2013) and Carver (2014) in a long line of freshly painted halls to rise to glory again.

The Orpheum, as the host of the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, took great care dialing in the sound quality and sight lines as part of the $13 million renovation. The acoustics are as good or better than any of the mid-sized venues in the city and Wilco’s mini-set / second encore (see the setlist below) was the perfect initiation, providing listeners an idea of just how finely-tuned the new room is.
Wilco’s setlist was built into three distinct stages. First, the band ran through the entirety of their latest LP Star Wars in workmanlike fashion, not stopping for much banter and paying close attention to the still newly-molding tunes. Next, the following fourteen songs to close the set and first encore (“Spiders (Kidsmoke)”) spanned the bands twenty-one year career and deeply eclectic catalog. Highlights from this classic segment included “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart,” the always riveting and torrential “Art of Almost,” a great sit-in by William Tyler on “Airline to Heaven,” the majesty of “Impossible Germany” and the set-closing “Late Greats”.

Following the first encore, the Wilco production team did quick work with minimal light, arranging a bare-bones acoustic set-up for the band to play in close quarters with lo-fi instrumentation and mics. The six song mini-set was for many (myself included), a special treat (especially hearing the rare Uncle Tupelo tune “We’ve Been Had”), vaulting this show above the (generally great) standard Wilco fare and offering fans a closer, less-fuzzed-over listen to Wilco’s instrumental and vocal talents (including a nice spotlight for bassist John Stirratt on lead vocals for “It’s Just That Simple”).

After two-and-a-half hours of Wilco (and William Tyler’s frequency-adjusting 30-minute instrumental set), fans got more than their money’s worth and an extra special first taste of The Orpheum Theater after returning to glory once again.

Setlist: Wilco @ The Orpheum Theater, New Orleans, LA // 9.28.2015

01 – More…
02 – Random Name Generator
03 – The Joke Explained
04 – You Satellite
05 – Taste the Ceiling
06 – Pickled Ginger
07 – Where Do I Begin
08 – Cold Slope
09 – King of You
10 – Magnetized
11 – Handshake Drugs
12 – Camera
13 – I Am Trying to Break Your Heart
14 – Art of Almost
15 – Via Chicago
16 – Hummingbird
17 – Box Full of Letters
18 – Heavy Metal Drummer
19 – I’m the Man Who Loves You
20 – Jesus, Etc.
21 – Born Alone
22 – Impossible Germany
23 – Airline to Heaven (with William Tyler)
24 – The Late Greats

25 – Spiders (Kidsmoke)

26 – Misunderstood
27 – It’s Just That Simple
28 – War On War
29 – We’ve Been Had
30 – California Stars
31 – A Shot in the Arm

Wilco & William Tyler