This review originally ran as a post on “Man Walks On The Moon…Again,” my ill-conceived attempt at running my own blog. Seeing as how that required actually work, I’ve decided to take the easy way out by returning to Everyview, so as to have the pleasure of working under the thumb of 14-year-old dictator Zac Pritcher.
So even though this concert was a week ago, and we already ran a Wilco live review over a year ago, I’m posting it, because it was awesome, and my opinions deserve to be heard, dammit.
Since moving back home, my life has been a bit on the joy deprived side. Most of my days consist of waking up at 11:30 to watch several hours of the rock-solid TBS comedy block (Home Improvement, Yes, Dear, Everybody Loves Raymond, etc.), scouring the internet desperately for jobs I have no chance of acquiring and seeing if I can stick the corkscrew on my dad’s swiss army knife up my nose far enough to lobotomize myself (I cannot).
But the universe finally threw me a bone on Friday, as after several years of fandom, I finally got the opportunity to see Wilco, arguably America’s greatest band of the moment (a title that will be snatched from them once Zac and I launch our own rendition of those bands who sing about the importance of good credit scores), live when they brought their show to Coveleski Stadium in South Bend, Indiana.
Not surprisingly, they didn’t disappoint.
After a respectable, but unmemorable performance from respectable, but unmemorable opening act Yo La Tengo, Jeff Tweedy and co. came out to thunderous applause from an enthusiastic, if not less-than-capacity crowd.
To single out the song selection for a band whose work generally ranges from great to very, very, very good may seem obvious, yet I can’t help but gush about the sensational setlist.
On the night, my no. 1 (“I Am Trying To Break Your Heart), 2 (“You Are My Face), 3 (She’s A Jar”) and 5 (Company In My Back) all-time favorite Wilco tracks were played. I can’t imagine seeing a 29 song, two-and-a-half hour set from one of the great acts of today being disappointing in any regard, but to get 80% of my “cream-of-the-crop” list made it all the better.
Not being a musician myself, I do feel a bit fraudulent discussing a band’s on-stage comrade. However, by my admittedly unqualified eye, Wilco appeared to be very tight on Friday.
Guitarist Nels Cline was very sharp, handling the band’s solo-heavy songs flawlessly.
Credit must also be bestowed upon drummer Glenn Kotche, who was playing with a broken toe he apparently acquired at some sort of gymboree function. Luckily, the injury didn’t appear to bother him as there weren’t any noticeably lacking elements in his performance.
But as expected, the scene stealer was frontman Jeff Tweedy. Tweedy has always struck me as one of the most engagingly flippant artists of his time, and his ability to create a fantastic body of work without succumbing to self-importance has been as crucial in drawing me in to his work almost as much as Wilco’s fantastic discography.
Tweedy was as awkwardly engaging as I anticipated on Friday.
Whether poking fun at he and his band (“This is the greatest hits portion of our set…one of these songs must have been a hit somewhere,” he announced before “Heavy Metal Drummer”), telling odd stories of pigeons and roadies crapping in the band’s mouth during shows or conducing a crowd sing-a-long to “Jesus, Etc.” and holding out giving full praise because he “didn’t want us to get cocky,” Tweedy was a low-key dynamo.
By night’s end, I was still a jobless 26-year-old living with mom and dad. On top of that, my shins were throbbing, the only thing I had in my stomach was a fingernail I accidentally ingested and my sanctimonious friend wouldn’t stop blabbing about how this show paled in comparison to seeing them at Farm Aid (I kid you not, the statement “just knowing I was doing my part to bring soil erosion to an end made that show such a powerful experience” actually spewed from his lips!).
But despite all that, for the first time in a month, all those complaints were irrelevant, as I had finally seen a Wilco live show. And none too soon it would appear, as this was the final Midwestern show of the year, as the band is seemingly ready to pull off the road to record a new album.
As tripe as it sounds, what I dig most about this band now is they seem solely focused on making great music and don’t even attempt to get caught up in the politics of the music industry, which anyone familiar with their history knows hasn’t always been the case. Everyone on stage appeared to simply enjoy playing together, which was fantastic to see and nothing makes or breaks a show more than chemistry.
Despite several lineup changes, public spats, personal problems and drastic shifts in their sound, Wilco has stayed one of the most consistently great acts musical acts of the past 15 years. And as I finallylearned on Friday, the greatness they have always been able to achieve on record carries over seamlessly to the stage.
Here’s hoping I don’t wait close to a decade before experiencing the thrill of seeing them again.
Final Score: 9.5/10