For a band that is playing four sold-out shows in the Bay Area this week, Wilco love to keep it fresh which is no easy task after nearly twenty years of performing and eight studio albums.
With most sold-out shows there are tons of people milling about trying to buy spare tickets or make a few bucks off their extra ones, but that was not the case at last night’s show. Everyone wanted a ticket. And while those lucky enough to have their own “golden tickets” entered the Fox, the excitement was obvious: Wilco fans love a good Wilco show.
For a band that’s been around as long as they have, there is no “typical fan” per se. In fact the crowd at the Fox had one of the widest age ranges I’d seen in a long time. They enjoyed the opening band White Denim (a psych rock, new generation jam band) for their 30 minute set, but it wasn’t until the lights went down for Wilco and their opening “Poor Places” that they really came alive.
Four songs into the set Jeff Tweedy said, “Hi everyone! Well, let’s get back to it,” so it looked like Tweedy was going to keep it a banter-free evening. But a few songs later, after “How to Fight Loneliness,” Tweedy admitted that “we made this set list earlier, but then we saw this gorgeous room and decided to play tender, beautiful songs.”
The crowd cheered.
“But, we can see that you guys are into rock.”
The crowd went wild.
“Well, we’re going to play the beautiful, tender songs anyway.”
And indeed, they seemed to play more lighthearted, intimate alt country songs than their harder rock tracks. But in the end Tweedy gave the audience what they wanted and played a 2 hour set that ran the gamut in terms of genre and discography. Wilco is one of the few bands that can embody so many musical styles magnificently. The sweet acoustic guitar riffs from Jeff Tweedy bleed into insane electric guitar solos from Nels Cline, with Mikael Jorgensen and Patrick Sansone on keyboards bouncing between lyrical melodies and jarring sound clouds. The six-piece Chicago based band, despite only including Tweedy and John Stirratt (bass) from the original lineup, play together seamlessly. A perfect example of this was the guitar solo in “Impossible Germany,” which the crowd loved.
The set design, which consisted of hanging white cloth tied in knots, complimented the versatility of the music. Colorful projections illuminated the stage throughout the set and even the knots themselves could light up. The effect was cozy at times, and jarring at others. What other show can you expect an intimate feeling of sitting on a porch, followed by intense strobe lighting and bustling city scene projections?
A rousing version of “Hummingbird” closed out the show. Tweedy tipped his hat and said good night. But the evening was far from over. The band came back for an encore and played eight more songs including “Shot in the Arm,” “Wilco”, “Passenger Side,” and “Kingpin.” As I’m sure he does in every city, Tweedy changed the lyrics to “I wanna be your kingpin / living in ‘Oakland.’ ” But the best part of the encore was when Tweedy said that someone this weekend had told him that if people flip you off, it means you’re doing a good job. So what did he do? He got the entire audience to flip him off for the last chorus of the song. At one point he even took a photo “for the grandkids.”
And of course, no show would be complete without the addition of a shirtless, cowbell wonder dancing across the stage to “Hoodoo Voodoo.”
Wilco are currently touring in support of their newest album The Whole Love which came out last September.