Saturday, August 25, 2007

Wilco + Greek = Fun For The Whole Family

At the Greek Theater tonight, Nels Cline was a far cry from the subdued character that played at the same venue two years ago. Pounding through two and a half hours of tunes off of the new Sky Blue Sky, as well as a host of older favorites, Cline demonstrated a combined prowess for subtlety, technical skill, and plain old rock and roll. Bounding around the stage for some tunes, then disappearing behind a table to sit at a pedal steel for others, he seemed to be having more fun than two years ago, and also to truly understand the many faces of Wilco.

At this evening's show, those many faces were plainly evident. The setlist read like a well versed exploration of Jeff Tweedy's compositions of the past 12 years. Not surprisingly, the band tapped nine songs off of the new album, and I was glad they did. While many of these tunes feel sterile or overly simple in their album form, they had a life all their own in the live setting. They gained dynamics, power, and weight that are simply not evident from the studio tracks. The quiet drone of "On and On and On" transcended its desperation, and instead weighed in with a pounding resolution of certainty: "You and I will stay together". Similarly, "Side With The Seeds" escaped the confines of being a relationship discussion, and instead yielded a call for solidarity in the face of bewilderment.

The other pieces of the puzzle were equally rewarding: the band took a diverse selection of tracks ranging over all of their albums, from AM's "Too Far Apart" (sung an octave higher than on the record, and showing off Tweedy's new-found vocal confidence) to A Ghost Is Born's "Hummingbird". The "easy rockers" quota was fulfilled by "Shot In The Arm", "Always In Love", and "Outta Mind Outta Site", while those more fond of Wilco's noise experiments got "A Future Age", "Via Chicago", and a clap-exercise version of "Spiders".

While the whole show was resoundingly solid, it did seem that the band is more confident in their newer noise/prog-rock sound than they are with the older classic rock tunes. While the more experimental pieces sounded fleshed out and exciting, the straight ahead rock read more like a nod to the fans or an effort to go through the motions. This is probably the biggest complaint I can muster, and it's not much of one. Despite Tweedy's potential to shush me, I loves me some Wilco.

Setlist:
Sunken Treasure
You Are My Face
I Am Trying To Break Your Heart
Either Way
Hand Shake Drugs
Pot Kettle Black
War On War
Shake It Off
Side With The Seeds
A Shot In The Arm
Impossible Germany
Sky Blue Sky
Too Far Apart
Via Chicago
Jesus, etc.
Hate It Here
Walken
I'm The Man Who Loves You
--------------------------
Misunderstood
California Stars
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Hummingbird
On and On and On
--------------------------
Always In Love
Outta Mind Outta Sight
A Future Age
Spiders


More photos at flickr.

6 comments:

pnk said...

Hats off, amigo. Not only is this a very nicely written review, but you put into words basically all of my thoughts on the show, too. You nailed it! I was so glad they dug out some of the "classics", but you are so right to observe the slightly lesser nature of the performance with the more traditional-sounding material.

Kosmo Vinyl II said...

most of the new stuff translates pretty well live; i'm not particularly fond of 'on and on and on' and staple-wise i could have lived w/o 'shot in the arm'... there were a couple points where Nils was a little much on the cacophony but an otherwise stellar set...
my first-ever visit to the Greek... splendid venue.

Wilco hasn't played 'In A Future Age' since last Oct. or November in Chicago i believe...

Brandon Abell said...

Hey, it looks like you were closer up than I was. Any idea what was up with the hat being thrown up there?

this charming man said...

nice review. pretty much my thoughts as well, though i don't agree that sky blue sky is that sterile. i'm really loving the record...have from first listen. owing to living in miami for a few years i haven't seen them live since the summerteeth tour...just live clips on youtube and listening lots to the "kicking television" record...wow...just an amazing band to watch and listen to do their stuff.

Chris said...

some idiot threw the hat and jeff threw it back..then the idiot threw it again...(hint, hint from Jeff maybe?!)...Jeff hucked it off to stage right..(idiot was stage left)...Maybe jeff didn't want to get lice?

Chris said...

some idiot threw the hat and jeff threw it back..then the idiot threw it again...(hint, hint from Jeff maybe?!)...Jeff hucked it off to stage right..(idiot was stage left)...Maybe jeff didn't want to get lice?