Concert Review: Wilco
Written by Nolan Shumate on November 17, 2019
All photos by Nolan Shumate
Wilco has been a band for longer than I’ve been alive, and it shows.
To peel back the curtain a little bit, this was the first show I ever covered. Talking about music is something I’ve always done, and writing about music is something that I’ve always been interested in. So, to finally be given the opportunity to legitimately cover a show was just as nervous as it was exciting. I showed up eager, and early, to get my photo pass from the box office and unsuccessfully tried to conceal a grin as I made my way into the venue.
First up was Deep Sea Diver.
Long-time indie-rock collaborator, Jessica Dobson, captains a band whose most recent project, Secrets, serves as a fantastic menu of uniquely produced instrumentation set behind Dobson’s silvery, carrying vocals. Deep Sea Diver ran through their own set and even previewed a new song off their forthcoming album titled Walking On A Switchblade, which you can find here, courtesy of a live recording in Paste Studios in New York.
Dobson, who clearly has the intangibles of a lead front-woman, addressed the crowd several times and seemed just as excited to be at a Wilco show as the crowd was.
Along with that came the band niceties of thanking the crowd for being there, as well as thanking Wilco for letting them come on tour with them. Between songs, Dobson even told the crowd a story of her using Nels Cline’s Jazzmaster, a story that she seemed incredibly excited to share. Be sure to check out their previous work in anticipation of their new album.
Personally, I would recommend the track Body on the Tracks if you want to get existential, and their cover of Last Christmas if you want to get festive.
For those unfamiliar, Wilco is an alt-rock sextet headed by Jeff Tweedy, currently on tour behind their eleventh studio album, Ode To Joy. Their set began promptly at 8:30 and they plowed through a whopping 28 song setlist in almost two hours. Watching Wilco play was unlike other shows I’ve been to.
There exists such obvious chemistry and expertise amongst the band that it’s not hard to believe they’ve been doing this since ‘94. No notes fell out of place and their live sound matched their studio sound to an almost eerie level. Tweedy stood front and center leading a band full of guys who all look like they would be the coolest professor you’ve ever had.
Crowd participation came in waves but at no point did the crowd ever seen dead or even remotely uninterested.
In fact, it seemed like everybody there was there because they loved Wilco. Core Wilco sing-alongs like Jesus, etc. Heavy Metal Drummer and California Stars drew particularly vocal responses from the crowd but it was clear throughout the show that everybody there was having a good time, the band included.
Never before have I seen people dancing and singing in the aisle of a legitimate theatre before. Granted, my friends and I might’ve been the youngest people there by 10 years, but it was still something I hadn’t seen before.
Between songs, Tweedy would often joke around with the crowd. Whether it was telling the story of a fan who got tased in Cincinnati the night before and challenging the night’s crowd to one-up it, or asking the crowd to pretend that the band went off stage for their already planned encore in order to save time, or poking fun at a fan in the front row for wearing a piece of particular unsuccessful merch, the level of comfort, and kind of candid charisma that Wilco shows on stage is so charming and genuine that it was hard to not walk away a bigger Wilco fan than I already was.
On the stage stood no ornate visuals, no staggering stage production, or anything that you’d really look twice at. It was a night of people who are the best at what they do, being at their best, and sharing decades worth of experience with a theatre full of people who wanted nothing more than to hear all about it. Personally, I don’t think I could’ve picked a better show to make my first one as a writer.
You can catch Wilco on a few more U.S. dates coming soon, with tickets being available via wilcoworld.net
You can also listen through the night’s setlist here!