Photos: Wilco @ The Pageant | 05.04.15

Alt-country trail blazers Wilco returned to Saint Louis, Missouri on May 5th, 2015 at The Pageant to a sold out show in the neighborhood where the band played its first shows 20 years ago. (Bryan J. Sutter)

Alt-country wonders Wilco paid a warm visit to their former sorta-hometown at The Pageant in St. Louis for a sold out show on their 20th anniversary tour.

Alt-country trail blazers Wilco returned to Saint Louis, Missouri on May 4th, 2015 at The Pageant to a sold out show in the neighborhood where the band played its first shows 20 years ago. (Bryan J. Sutter)

Not many bands of note make it to the 20-year mark with the grace and presence that Wilco have maintained throughout their career. Even fewer bands with original members from the greater St. Louis area can claim such a distinction. And while I have some strong feelings about Wilco post-Jay Bennett, what Jeff Tweedy and company presented on the Pageant stage was evocative and lucid, a wild celebration of a sometimes odd and genre-bouncing Midwestern underdog that persevered and came out on top.

Alt-country trail blazers Wilco returned to Saint Louis, Missouri on May 5th, 2015 at The Pageant to a sold out show in the neighborhood where the band played its first shows 20 years ago. (Bryan J. Sutter)

With a daunting catalog before them, Wilco pulled well from the 8 studio albums. While it would’ve been nice to hear more than one song from 1999’s Summerteeth (a surprisingly heavy rendition of “Nothing’severgonnastandinmyway(again)”) and maybe a few less cuts from 2004’s A Ghost Is Born, the tracks from their Yankee Hotel Foxtrot followup had an enjoyable energy on stage seemingly not captured in the recording booth. And, yes, Wilco performed enough tracks from their breakout record (“Jesus Etc.”, “Kamera”, “Heavy Metal Drummer”) to satisfy the hardcore fan and the bro dude who “just really likes that one album.” I was surprised, however, with the bounty of songs from the seemingly-overlooked Being There, Wilco’s second record. “I got You (“At The End Of The Century)” and “Outtasite (Outta Mind)” were obvious choices from the 1996 double record, but pulling out “Monday” to end the first encore was a welcomed left turn, and a satisfying one, at that.

As the set moved past the one-hour mark, things got a bit looser, with more moments of improvisation than my attention span can entertain. The brunt of these wild lead-guitar riffs were handled by Nels Cline, who had no issue doling out the sort of fretboard finesse that fuels the demand for live albums and bootleg recordings.

Alt-country trail blazers Wilco returned to Saint Louis, Missouri on May 5th, 2015 at The Pageant to a sold out show in the neighborhood where the band played its first shows 20 years ago. (Bryan J. Sutter)

For my photographic duties, this was a mixed bag. The lighting was excellent, and the crushed-velvet vibe of the massive backdrop really gave things an amazing atmosphere throughout the performance. But during the customary three songs that photographers are allowed to shoot at big shows such as this, the issue wasn’t harsh lighting or monochromatic color casts, which is often the frustration of many concert photographers. Here, it was that the band was pushed just far enough back from the lip of the stage for the floor monitors to block the performers when they moved to the middle of the stage. It would’ve been less of an issue I been using a standard 70-200mm zoom, but I have switched camera systems from Sony to Fujifilm, and I do not have an equivalent lens at the moment. The Fujinon 56mm f1.2 (which is a 85mm lens on Fujifilm’s crop X-Mount system) is a fantastically sharp piece of glass, but it was hard to get a good angle in the situation without having a longer lens to work with. There was also a sense of melancholy radiating from Jeff Tweedy, who during the performance noted that the show was being recorded for his father, who was in the hospital and couldn’t attend. Obviously, that’s a very heavy thing and you can see this reflected in the photos captured not just by me, but the other photographers present, as well.

Sometimes shooting live music is like that. Sometimes, life is like that. Still, it was one of the best shows I’ve seen in a long, long while.

See more photos from Wilco’s wonderful performance at The Pageant by clicking here or by checking out the gallery below.

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