Live Music: Wilco @ Merriweather Post Pavilion - 9/25/11

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Words: Jack     Photos: Kevin

Kevin here. When you've seen a band like Wilco so many times you can't keep count, it's hard to really be objective about them. Which is why we sent Jack to see Wilco, for the first time no less. For those unfamiliar with Jack, click here, to find out more, but in a nutshell it's this: Jack loves rock. Jack plays rock. Jack thinks about rock all day. Jack is sort of the embodiment of why this site exists in the first place. Jack is also 15 years old. Everything you read and see from hear on out is unfiltered, unedited Jack and we couldn't be more pleased to have him on board. This is how most of us used to see music, but there's no reason we can't see it this way again. So get ready, because here comes pure, unfiltered JACK!

Boy, do I love going to concerts on school nights. Especially when it’s a band I love but have inexplicably missed two shows by in the past. Yes, Wilco, one of the first bands I discovered/got into when I started dabbling in being a serious music fan several years ago. Though I started with Wilco (The Album) I eventually grew to love much of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and a lot from all of their albums. Needless to say a trip to see them was long overdue, and when I showed up to see them at Merriweather I was quite pumped.

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Nick Lowe holding the crowd captive.Nick Lowe was first, and I don’t think an opening act has ever impressed me quite so much. I’d heard of him, and eventually recognized him as that guy who wrote “Peace, Love and Understanding”, but no longer is he that guy to me. Why? Because he’s Nick Effing Lowe, that’s why. His voice sounded rich and his performance was just excellent. The songs were all crafted beautifully and if I weren’t such a sucker for Wilco I would’ve bought some of his music on the way out. He joked about only being there to test the PA, but he did far more than that. He ended with probably the most touching version of “Peace, Love and Understanding” I’d ever heard.

Wilco arrived on stage and immediately tore into “Art of Almost,” the weird, synthy, building opener of The Whole Love. The lights added even more intensity to the song, and the inevitable rock out at the end was pleasingly energetic and crazy. They then tore through “I Might,” which I particularly liked with the added electric guitar Tweedy played (a quite expensive one, too).

Then came “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart” with its chaotic breakdown and singalongs on the chorus, followed quickly by two (The Album) cuts, “One Wing” and “Bull Black Nova”. The latter was especially exciting with its noisy outro. Then things got quiet, the crowd calmed down, and they slowly eased into the beautiful “One Sunday Morning (Song For Jane Smiley’s Boyfriend)”, one of the most relaxing and touching pieces of music I’ve heard by Wilco. I almost didn’t want it to end, but it was only the seventh song, and I knew there was much more to come.

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Nels Cline stuns the crowd (as usual) on "Impossible Germany"Next came “Impossible Germany”, always a delight, with Nels cutting loose on the soloing in the second half of the song, and another new song, “Born Alone” which had yet another intense, sprawling outro. Around this time in the set Tweedy finally started talking to the audience, talking about the show being broadcast on NPR, and noting we were quite a scruffy bunch for a Sunday evening. “Handshake Drugs” came next, a typical rendition with Cline and Pat Sansone trading solos, and it was followed by a beautiful singalong on “Jesus, Etc.” The atmosphere was wonderful, and I love the song to begin with, and I sang along through all of it.

The rest of the set was a mix of new and old. The noisy pop of “Dawned On Me”. The twang of “Box Full Of Letters”. The impossible catchiness of “Standing O”. All of it running up to Wilco classics “War On War” and a stellar version of  “A Shot In The Arm” complet with synthy breakdown. And that was the end of the show.

Just kidding.

No Wilco show would be complete without riotous encores! They returned and started playing a pretty version of “Via Chicago”, which was interrupted periodically by bursts of thundery noise, but was excellent nonetheless. “Whole Love” was poppy and sweet, after which Nick Lowe came back onstage for a performance of his song “36 Inches High” backed by Wilco, a wonderful bluesy stomp. Then was a fast, rocking performance of “Heavy Metal Drummer” and the powerful combined punch of Being There jams “Monday” and “Outtasite (Outta Mind)”, and when Tweedy said “see you next time” before leaving the stage.

I'm sure I will Mr. Tweedy. I’m sure I will.

Don't forget, you can now stream the show, it's entirety courtesy of those crazy communists over at NPR.org.

Wilco performing at Merriweather Post Pavillion. Photos by Kevin Hill