Tuesday, October 6, 2009

[LIVE REVIEW] Wilco in Minneapolis 10/2/09

If last Monday’s Sufjan Stevens concert was an example of a relatively young artist still finding his way, then Friday’s concert with Wilco in Minneapolis was just about the polar opposite. Starting the night with a song named after themselves, and then going for 2+ hours without letting up once, Wilco played with the utmost confidence and skill, making it clear that this band is the happiest it’s been in years, and we can all agree that the feeling is well deserved.

Many Wilco fans, myself included, may feel that the band has never quite matched the level of artistry they achieved with 2002’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Their last album especially – Wilco (The Album) – has not met with the highest of critical approval. But as Friday night showed, the band could not care less, and is completely satisfied with where they are as a group. This level of confidence was overwhelming, and made the night a complete success. From jokingly adopting rock-star poses on stage to playfully goading on the audience, Jeff Tweedy and crew were extremely loose and relaxed, and it resulted in one of the more enjoyable “rock ‘n’ roll” concerts I’ve seen.

The band has gone through many lineup changes over the years, but the one that Tweedy has settled on for the past few years is arguably their strongest on the concert stage – not necessarily in the studio, but the live shows are on a whole other level than their albums at this point. From guitarist Nels Cline, who dominates the stage with his exciting stage presence, to drum veteran Glenn Kotche, to Pat Sansone, who may not dominate the Wilco headlines but certainly won over a large portion of the crowd with his humorous stage antics, this group is filled with skilled musicians who are undeniably some of the best in the world at what they do.

The show was heavy on tracks from (The Album), but the set was long enough that this fact did not wipe out any of the other, more anticipated tracks like “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart,” “Spiders (Kidsmoke),” “Heavy Metal Drummer,” and others. Opener Liam Finn put on an electrifying set and came back on stage in the first encore to strum and sing along with “You Never Know” and “California Stars,” the latter of which also featured guest guitarist Gary Louris of the Jayhawks.

Tweedy was relatively quiet for the first part of the set, as the band went through several of the new tracks, but as things got going he got more into the crowd, whether it was encouraging us to clap along during “Spiders (Kidsmoke)” – “It’s gotta be healthy for you” – or leaving the singing duties of “Jesus, Etc.” entirely up to the audience, as the entire Roy Wilkins Auditorium crowd sang along in unison.

Tweedy and the rest of the band injected energy into every single track, as the set came off as much more “rock” than their newer albums would suggest. Cline and Sansone even engaged in a couple of guitar duels, trading off virtuosic solos with grins on their faces, making it clear that they’ve done this before and have loved it every time.

Overall, this may have not been the single greatest concert I’ve ever seen, but it is definitely one of the more “fun” exhibits I have witnessed. Wilco may never release another masterpiece, but that would be fine with me as long as they keep touring and giving the audience these kinds of shows. As long as Wilco keeps loving us, we’ll keep loving them.

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