I went to see Wilco last week (yes, I seem to be going on, and on, and on about it).
In their nearly 90 minute regular set, they only played only one song that had ever been a radio single. And that was "I Might," their newest (and therefore, least familiar) single. Everything else was an album cut.
In contrast, I went to the Life Is Good Festival, and the one band I went out of my way to see, was The Hold Steady.
The Hold Steady opened the show with the beat poem/song "Positive Jam" and then launched into single after single after single.
I think they played every single off their last 3 albums ("Sequestered In Memphis," "Lord I'm Discouraged," "Hurricane J," "Stuck Between Stations"), filling the first half of their set. The effect was that every song was familiar to any mid-level fan. It was only later in the set that they dug a little deeper into their records.
I can only guess as to why each band approached their set list in such a way.
Wilco isn't really all about singles. They make some great ones, but they've really been an "album" band for a long time. Their singles are hooky, but the real power of Wilco is the artful noise and sonic dynamic the six guys on stage can make.
The Hold Steady, meanwhile, puts on a live show that seems designed to win you over by whipping you into a frenzy. They unload the magazine from the get-go, but have the power to keep up that pace even after delivering their hits.
Again, no agenda here. I just found it interesting.
Plus it gives me the chance to point out one of the funniest lyrics of the last several years, from "Sequestered In Memphis":
We didn't go back to her place.
We went to some place where she cat-sits
See the band on Letterman, on Youtube.