On Monday night, Oct. 16, Wilco brought their Tour to Infinity run to the Keller Auditorium in Portland, Ore. Following a day of heavy rain, the Jeff Tweedy-led ensemble emerged ready to bloom in front of their City of Roses audience, who were treated to an increased number of cuts from their latest studio project, Cousins–intermixed with beloved material culled from their nearly 30-year lineage. After a 19-song main frame, the band welcomed special guests to the stage during their encore, including the 1994-2011 auxiliary member of R.E.M. and current co-leader of The Baseball Project, Scott McCaughey.
Proceeding an opening frame from My Brightest Diamond, also known as Shara Nova, the Chicago-based musicians casually assembled on stage. With minimal crowd interactions, in line with a laid-back West Coast approach, Wilco leaped full-on into the setlist, beginning with a new tune “Infinite Surprise,” perhaps alluding to the night’s unannounced guest. Like the seasoned vets they are, Wilco knew what to pull out next, igniting the room with a spotless rendition of A Ghost Is Born number, “Handshake Drugs,” before returning to their Cousins collections with “Pittsburgh.”
The group of musicians wasted no time adding a pair of songs off their 2022 released Cruel Country set, embracing a desired twang on “I Am My Mother” and their set’s title track. At this point in the night, few concert-goers remained seated, with the ensuing display of the Yankee Hotel Foxtrot knockout, “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart,” served as the motivator. With the crescendo ascending, the entire room collectively exhaled on the title lyrics, followed by Tweedy’s signature and playful “Hello,” met with illumination of the room as a visual that functioned as a bright greeting to the crowd.
After running through a tight display of “Meant to Be,” another new number, Wilco added in fan favorite, “Hummingbird,” representing the first song of the night where Tweedy put down the guitar and fully hung onto the lyrics. Nels Cline’s extended guitar solo added to the live element, which popped and fizzed like mimicry of swelled emotion emanating from prized wood and strings. Returning to Cousins, the band went with “Sunlight Ends,” which brought out more of Cline’s instrumental strengths to the forefront.
“Whole Love” and “Bird Without a Tail/ Base of My Skull” preluded the title track off the Cate Le Bon-produced set and was followed by a hometown salute, “Via Chicago.” Next, a relatively quiet Tweedy spoke directly to the crowd, mentioning “Evicted” was in “the top five,” where–he did not know–nonetheless, the moment functioned as an opportunity to shine the light on one of the band’s best cuts off their new record. Fan favorites, “Impossible Germany,” “Jesus, Etc.” and “Heavy Metal Drummer” rocked the house and kept the audience entertained through the final note of their follow up, “A Shot in the Arm.”
For the night’s encore, Wilco brought out Portland resident McCaughey, who sat in behind the keys on “California Stars.” Notably, McCaughey and Tweedy had worked together in the past, teaming up and producing The Minus 5’s 2001 record, Down With Wilco. For the final display of the night, the evening’s opener, Nova, stepped out and assisted their hosts with the electric thrasher, “Spiders (Kidsmoke).”
View a photo gallery from last night’s Rose City concert below, courtesy of Hana Gustafson.
Keller Auditorium – Portland, Ore.
Oct. 16, 2023
Set: Infinite Surprise, Handshake Drugs, Pittsburgh, I Am My Mother, Cruel Country, I Am Trying to Break Your Heart, One Wing, Meant to Be, Hummingbird, Sunlight Ends, Whole Love, Bird Without a Tail/ Base of My Skull, Cousins, Via Chicago, Evicted, Impossible Germany, Jesus, Etc., Heavy Metal Drummer, A Shot in the Arm
Enc.: California Stars+, Spiders (Kidsmoke)#
+ With Scott McCaughey
# With opener, My Brightest Diamond