Friday, June 21, 2024

Wilco continues to play rock concerts that just can't be beat for me

I've seen quite a few Wilco concerts, and it's good to know the band still has it. Last night's show at Wolftrap in Virginia was among the best ones I've seen. I wasn't sure if they would call it in on the way to the curated gathering the band puts together every summer called Solid Sound, but instead it appeared the players were in complete synchronicity with each other, and Wolftraps's sound on the lawn was very crisp.

One way to describe what I heard is the way Glen Kotche described his instrument back in 2004's The Wilco Book (which is a fun picture book about the making of the album A Ghost Is Born):

"I think drums - percussion - can be used not only as a rhythym instrument, but also for color and texture (as in an orchestra). I think that the drum kit hasn't been explored enough outside the parameters of groove-based jazz or rock and that has an exciting future."

Kotche's drums bashed in pastiches when leader Jeff Tweedy wasn't singing, and sometimes when he was. Meanwhile, Tweedy is a masterful Jerry Garcia-type figurehead, with beautiful singing to guide the path with his own ripping guitar and the iconic lead playing of Nels Cline and Pat Sansone's Nels Cline-approaching talents as well. Bassist John Stiratt quietly plays up a strorm while holding everything together tightly.

The setlist:

  1. Misunderstood
  2. Forget the Flowers
  3. Handshake Drugs
  4. At Least That's What You Said
  5. I Am My Mother
  6. Cruel Country
  7. I Am Trying to Break Your Heart
  8. Meant to Be
  9. If I Ever Was a Child
  10. Theologians
  11. Cousin
  12. Bird Without a Tail / Base of My Skull
  13. Hummingbird
  14. Evicted
  15. Box Full of Letters
  16. I'm Always in Love
  17. Jesus, Etc.
  18. Impossible Germany
  19. Heavy Metal Drummer
  20. A Shot in the Arm
  1. California Stars (Billy Bragg & Wilco cover)
  2. Falling Apart (Right Now)
  3. Via Chicago
  4. Spiders (Kidsmoke)
"Meant to Be" and "Evicted" are great new entries into the Wilco cannon from Cousin (my 9th-favorite album of 2023). Look at all those other classic entries into the set: "Misunderstood," "Handshake Drugs," "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart," "Theologians," "Hummingbird," "Box Full of Letters," "Jesus, Etc.," "Heavy Metal Drummer," "California Stars," Via Chicago," and "Spiders (Kidsmoke)." Then there's my favorite "Impossible Germany." I fear the thought of someday making a list of my favorite Wilco songs. It will not be easy.

As if I needed more evidence on a fun night under the moon with friends before a major heat wave arrives in Washington, D.C., this show cemented Wilco/Uncle Tupelo/Son Volt as my fourth-favorite band of all time. And openers Cut Worms were also very good in a Buddy Holly-meets-Grateful-Dead-way.

5 out of 5 stars

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