Greek Theatre, August 29, 2007
by Jonah Flicker
I’m sure there were plenty of celebrities peppered throughout the crowd at the Greek Theatre as perennial underdogs/yuppie-faves, Wilco, took the stage on a balmy Wednesday night. My celebrity sighting, however, was limited to one Mr. Fred Savage. At least I’m 99.9 percent sure it was Fred. But whatever; The Wonder Years was a great show, it was a beautiful evening, clouds flitting about over an ample moon, and band leader Jeff Tweedy was in one hell of a good mood. His crowd banter was jovial and actually pretty funny, as he gave one lucky fan a hard time for lifting aloft a lighter during the sauntering “Jesus, Etc.” (comparing himself to Don Rickles in the process) and held his mike out for some crowd participation in the middle of “Hummingbird.”
More after the jump. More photos of Wilco here.
The rest of the band was in fine form as well. Guitarist Nels Cline, fully recovered from a nasty bout of adult chicken pox, rendered textures both shrill and gentle through his Fender Jazzmaster. Moments of guitar-hero performance worked their way into the set, but overall the man’s squawking solos are delicately integrated into and around Tweedy’s fine song-craft. The occasional outburst of squalor erupted at appropriate times, however, from the soft scratching that filled out “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” to the full on soloing at the end of “Side with the Seeds.” And the always-astounding Glen Kotche alternately pummeled and caressed his drum kit, a constant heartbeat that grounded the proceedings.
Overall, the right balance of what makes Wilco so appealing to their fan base of frat boys, yuppies, indie kids, and hippies (all of whom were present at the show), was present throughout their 90-minute set. Tweedy writes songs rooted in traditional American rock postures that stretch back over 40 years, sometimes (thankfully) lacing them with adventurous hints of discordant experimentalism. From “Handshake Drugs” to “Impossible Germany” to “War on War,” all aspects of the band’s stories career were on display on this night, with a definite emphasis on the more orthodox entries into Tweedy’s varied songbook. But Wilco’s music just seems to speak to people – never have I seen a crowd that big fall into complete silence, as happened during songs like the acoustic “Sky Blue Sky” and the dynamic “Shake it Off.” The band didn’t demand it, but they didn’t have to. The appreciative audience had plenty of moments to express themselves loudly during the encore performance of “California Stars.” Tweedy apologized for not playing the tune on their last two LA stops, since, in his words, it would seem to be something of a “no-brainer.” But as the show wound down, it was clear that no one held a grudge.
By Jonah Flicker
Photos by Timothy Norris.