Wilco For The Win: Captivating A Highly Distracted Crowd 101

Wilco had some tough competition at the Revention Center with the Astros in Game 3 of the World Series.
Wilco had some tough competition at the Revention Center with the Astros in Game 3 of the World Series. Photo By Eric Sauseda
It’s no easy feat competing for attention these days, with most people’s heads buried in their phones. Now add to the challenge: performing in a city whose team is playing in the World Series. As an artist looking out into an obviously distracted crowd you have two choices; you can either ignore it and keep playing or you can address it head on.

Friday night at the Revention Center, Jeff Tweedy of Wilco choose to address it head on. “Let’s try and focus everybody. Spoiler alert, someone is going to lose,” said Tweedy. This was met with a mix of applause and heckling to which he dryly responded, “I’m glad I addressed this.”

The Astros (who did indeed win) may have been on their audience's minds, but Wilco won the crowd over by commanding attention with their engaging and explosive performance. During “Via Chicago”, the band shifted from floating away on a cloud to crashing through the atmosphere via heavy drums and feedback with strobe lights to match. At that point, despite the score, the phones went down.

The band kicked out a good number of tracks from their new album Ode To Joy while sprinkling in fan favorites from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and other albums.  Songs from Ode To Joy carried with them an energy and charisma not fully appreciated on record. 

click to enlarge Jeff Tweedy and Wilco convinced the audience to look up from their phones. - PHOTO BY ERIC SAUSEDA
Jeff Tweedy and Wilco convinced the audience to look up from their phones.
Photo By Eric Sauseda
The band also reminded Wilco fans of that fact that while they may be most associated with a soft sound, they are fully capable of rocking your Astros socks off.  Guitarist Nels Cline took the lead on many long solos which left even his band mates looking on in awe. Tweedy at times was reminiscent of Lou Reed almost speaking his poetry into the microphone.

Patrick Sansone navigated a sea of instruments from the banjo to the xylophone with ease, grace and a smile. Wilco wholeheartedly accepted the challenge to win everyone’s attention and they succeeded while playing for over two hours to a packed Revention Center.

After the upbeat “Random Name Generator” Tweedy asked the crowd, “Are we friends again? I want your team to win.” He even admitted to looking at his phone when people are speaking to him. Wilco and the crowd were definitely friends again.

Tweety encouraged the audience to pretend the band left the stage and returned for an encore and treated everyone to two more songs including the catchy and relatable "Hold Me Anyway".  The band finally did leave the stage but was called back by the audience who overwhelmingly took part in a sports themed "Let's go Wilco!" chant until the band returned for a full encore, cementing their win.

Set List:
Bright Leaves
Before Us
War On War
One And A Half Stars
Handshake Drugs
Shouldn’t Be Ashamed
White Wooden Cross
Via Chicago
Bull Black Nova
Laminated Cat
Random Name Generator
We Were Lucky
Love Is Everywhere
Impossible Germany
Forget The Flowers
California Stars
Box Full Of Letters
Everyone Hides
I’m The Man Who Loves You
Hold Me Anyway

An Empty Corner
You And I
Heavy Metal Drummer
Late Greats
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Gladys Fuentes is a first generation Houstonian whose obsession with music began with being glued to KLDE oldies on the radio as a young girl. She is a freelance music writer for the Houston Press, contributing articles since early 2017.
Contact: Gladys Fuentes