Show Review: Wilco @ Moody Theater (10/27)

I walked into the Moody Theater on Sunday evening unsure of myself; I’ve listened to the new record a handful of times, but by and large, my Wilco listening habits have been sporadic over the last decade, popping in for the singles but barely getting too deeply involved in the albums themselves, until Ode To Joy.

So, I settled into my seat to catch the opener, Molly Sarle. Strong vocal performance from the opener, with a little bit of light banter about square dancing. I found the kick drum to be far too loud for the situation, but by and large she captured the part of the audience that showed up early.

Then I found myself surrounded by a family of Wilco superfans, and I felt like a cheat. These folks had traveled to three different cities to catch Wilco live over the last week or so, at least from what I could overhear. I wondered what I had missed in the interim, what had continued to make Wilco fans so rabid…so I set out my night there.

In the first few moments, I was a little bit annoyed at Jeff; he went through the first 5 tunes before even acknowledging the audience. They played a couple of Ode to Joy tunes, but got an early applause from the opening riffs of “I am Trying to Break Your Heart” off Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. It wasn’t until “Handshake Drugs” that Jeff began to interact with the audience, and it was there that the night sort of took off. His banter, though not frequent, was quite playful and self-deprecating at times; I found it endearing; he felt like a good friend having a laugh. This is what keeps bringing folks back to the band, year after year.

They bounced around hits, always careful to include some new tunes along the way; I love that they included “Hesitating Beauty.” The clear winner is still Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, and its incredible how many of the songs still seem fresh and vital to the music some 20 years later. Part of its lasting legacy is the experimentation, which is always present when Nels Cline is on stage; he’s a man that clearly just loves to play. He spent the whole night manipulating various effects, but won me over with his incessant jamming guitar flare.

Tweedy, for his part, still sounds incredible up there. I remember at the end of the set, probably about 1:45 in, with “Jesus, Etc” and thinking how special he still sounded; I then glanced about the stage to try and find a water bottle, and not nary a drop in sight. Two plus hours of singing, and still had such great strength by the night’s end. But, therein lies my one complaint, and I’m sure its a Wilco conundrum for the inner circle, but 2.5 hours of one band might be too much. I mean, how does one carry 11 albums and make a crowd happy? Throwing in a Daniel Johnston’s “True Love Will Find You in the End” is a pretty decent way to go out…so I called it there, and missed the last two tracks of their encore on my way out. So maybe I cheated. Maybe I love those first four or five records so much that it allows me to dip my toes in the records that followed. I definitely left still a fan, still needing to hear Wilco from time to time…and perhaps an old fan wiling to look deeper into the band’s more recent catalog.

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