Wilco Verizon Wireless Theater May 6, 2011
Jeff Tweedy's kind of an asshole.
But it's okay, because we're familiar with the type:The guy who grew up a snotty punk-rock kid in the '80s, went on to form a band that just happened to become one of the most critically lauded acts of that era before they broke up, then went on to form another group that would go on to become a critical darling of the millennial set as well. But for differing career aspirations (and a marked lack of musical talent), Aftermath can see a lot of similarities between ourselves and him.
So don't get us wrong: Tweedy may be an asshole, but he's our kind of asshole.
This streak of deliberate contrariness that's informed much of Wilco's latter-era releases has done as much to alienate old fans - most still clinging to thin hopes of an Uncle Tupelo reunion - as it has to win them new converts for the experimentation on albums like Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost is Born.
All the same, Aftermath could never shake the feeling Tweedy just really likes to push his fans' buttons.
Wilco wasn't touring behind any new release when they hit Verizon Friday. And with Tweedy back in good health and the rest of the band honed to a fine point as they work on recording their eighth album, Get Well Soon Everybody, the show was a tight, powerful walk through choice selections from the group's last 15 years.
Yankee and Ghost provided the bulk of the set list, with the most intense crowd reaction coming for "Jesus, Etc." (including a singalong), "Via Chicago," and "Handshake Drugs." Tweedy's onstage banter was typically sardonic ("Hello, Texas... I'm sorry to hear so many people have been messing with you"), which everyone ate up.
We're all dazzling, post-ironic urbanites here, after all.
But as the packed house and warm reactions to "A Shot In the Arm" (one of only two Summerteeth cuts) and "One Wing" could attest, most of us were just happy to see the band back in town. Wilco fans get a lot of grief for their apparent masochism (they're a lot like Star Wars fans in that respect), but when Tweedy and the boys are on, like they were Friday night, they put one of the best shows around.
Their touring lineup has been cemented since 2004, with founding member John Stirratt a comforting presence on bass and lead guitarist Nels Cline alternating capable riffage with approriate feedback during the more avant-garde selections, while Pat Sansone and Mikael Jorgensen rounded out the lush live sound with keyboards and electronic fills.
Any complaints we had would be directed more at the less audience friendly selections, not merely because they may not be our personal preference but they didn't seem to work quite as well in the context of the rest of the set. "Hummingbird" and "Walken" specifically, though we realize we might be in the minority.
As Aftermath mentioned, the show only went back 15 years. Tweedy appears uninterested in ever revisiting the band's 1995 debut, A.M.. That's certainly understandable, but would it kill him to play "Box Full of Letters?" Just one more time?
Personal Bias: Aftermath is one of those aforementioned old fans: An Uncle Tupelo devotee from the No Depression days and an unrepentant fan of Wilco's cough earlier, "less adventurous" efforts.
The Crowd: Extremely white, white, baby.
Overheard In The Crowd: "You went with the Absolut?" "Yeah, I've got the kids tomorrow."
Random Notebook Dump: "Note to self: sing 'Via Chicago' around wife tomorrow. See if she notices."
Ashes of American Flags Bull Black Nova I Am Trying to Break Your Heart Kamera Handshake Drugs One Wing War On War A Shot in the Arm At Least That's What You Said Via Chicago Impossible Germany Airline To Heaven Jesus, Etc. Theologians Hummingbird Walken I'm the Man Who Loves You
The Late Greats Misunderstood Spiders (Kidsmoke) Heavy Metal Drummer I'm a Wheel