Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wilco at the Wiltern, June 23rd, 2009

Wilco opened with "Wilco (the song)", and it got me a little worried about the acoustics, because there was a ton of vibration up in the mezzanine, and I couldn't really hear Mr. Tweedy (on whose beard someone in the audience had a crush. o_O) very well. It seemed to get better later on, though, even if the guitars were a little overwhelming at times. I kind of get the feeling they were supposed to be, since, come on, they have Nels fucking Cline, and because over the course of the show, the various members played at least 20 different guitars, and more were waiting in the wings.

What really struck me was how relaxed and happy Tweedy was, because he's always struck as being somewhat cranky and nervy. He did weird stompy/shuffly dances around the stage and struck a few rock-star poses that were just silly because he was all rumply-looking and wearing baked potato shoes (what is it about rock stars and baked potato shoes, anyway? I am going to eat your shoes, Jeff Tweedy and Jack White. With sour cream.) He was even excited about a potential snot-bubble! He had his banter lasers set to "kill" instead of "stun", too. He good-naturedly hassled us about being a typical LA crowd. I think we half-passed, half-failed the test, because apparently crowds usually start spontaneously clapping along to "Spiders (Kidsmoke)" and he had to prompt us. But we were enthusiastic, damn it! He sent the clapping rhythm and then was like, "This is a test of how secure you are. It's the stupidest thing in the world [to clap]. Can you do the stupidest thing in the world?" Then he started clapping above his head in the classic "taking it to the bridge" pose and asked, "Can you do it like this? That's even stupider." A lot of people in the audience did, and then Tweedy was like, "You guys are really stupid. I mean that in the best way, L.A." Still he needled us about not being as good as the audience in Pomona (who were probably all super-hardcore fans, because why else would anyone go to Pomona?), who he claimed "clapped like they were born to clap."

Maybe Cottony being happy and relaxed made the other guys feel better too, because the whole concert just seemed like a bunch of friends being silly while playing a ton of songs. Tweedy indulged in some embarrassing Dad dancing, mussed up his greasy hair in "Hate It Here", and crouched down at the edge of the stage so fans in the front row could strum his guitar. Pat Sansone and Nels Cline had a guitar battle in "Hoodoo Voodoo", with Sansone pulling a bunch of rock star shapes. He just turned 40 on Saturday, so his ability to play guitar while halfway in the splits was impressive... in tight jeans, no less! Nels Cline was less silly and more spazzy -- he just gets so into it. A few times, when he was sitting down to play some weird lap guitar, he'd start flailing his skinny legs around in a way that reminded me of John Cleese railing about Communists or Dr. Scott wheelchair-dancing during "Wild and Untamed Thing" in Rocky Horror Picture Show. After a while, the song structure can get a tiny bit predictable, since you can count on there being a prolonged Cline freakout in the middle, but they're never boring.

Jeff Tweedy's vocals were spot-on throughout the whole show, too, even the adorable prolonged voice-cracking in "Hoodoo Voodoo". He doesn't have a great voice like Cedric Bixler-Zavala, but he can color it so beautifully that it's just heart-breaking. "At Least That's What You Said" and "Jesus, Etc." gave me goosebumps and made me a little teary, so if they had done "On and On and On" or "How to Fight Loneliness", I would've collapsed in an inconsolable heap. For some reason, Tweedy kept playing this one riff from Bowie's "Width of a Circle". I really don't want to think about him banging a young bordello, or a demon or an angel, or whatever it is that Bowie's screwing in that song. Maybe Tweedy metaphorically made a deal with the devil on his way to the theatre that night, and by "metaphorically", I mean "get your coat."

They played for about two and a half hours and did two encores. In all, it was just a really happy, fun show, kind of like the Raconteurs shows last year, only more laid-back and with a far less annoying audience. (As an aside, Mars Volta shows aren't fun in the same way. I think the material is too dark.) Everyone there seemed to genuinely love Wilco and be into the music, so they weren't doing a lot of talking and only sang along out loud when the band wanted them too, which is fairly often, really.

Here's a setlist:

Main set: Wilco (the song) / Muzzle of Bees / A Shot in the Arm / At Least That’s What You Said / Bull Black Nova / You Are My Face / I Am Trying to Break Your Heart / One Wing / In a Future Age / Impossible Germany / Shouldn’t Be Ashamed / Sonny Feeling / Jesus, Etc. / Handshake Drugs / You Never Know / Hate It Here / Walken / I’m the Man Who Loves You

First encore: The Late Greats / Box Full of Letters / Misunderstood (40 nothings) / Spiders (Kidsmoke) / Hummingbird

Second encore: Happy Birthday to You (to "Lady"? Jeff Tweedy said he wanted to sing "Happy Birthday" to someone at every show.) / Red Eyed & Blue > I Got You (At the End of the Century) / Monday > Hoodoo Voodoo

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