Wilco performs at the Overture Center in Madison on September 11, 2007.
Certainly, no audience member goes to a sold out, kill your neighbor for a ticket kind of show like Wilco's concert at the Overture Center on Tuesday night without a connection to the act. So how does one adequately review the band that was the soundtrack to a two-year relationship that ended on the day of the show?
The Soul Asylum song opines, "they say misery loves company," and I was hoping to find some at Wilco's performance. But the crying along with the vocal style Jeff Tweedy perfected on A Ghost is Born wasn't an option. The sad crackle he once employed has disappeared; these days he sounds a not wry confidence when he bends into a microphone. As a result, Wilco's songs last night communicated a wise, practiced vibe. The old sense of misery wasn't there. But what about hope? Absolutely.
"Side with Seeds" best encapsulated the realm of Wilco's deeper meaning. Glenn Kotche's frenzied drumming, Pat Sansone's defeated concave chested playing, John Stirratt's stoney faced jerking, Tweedy's pleading, up tilted chin and nods of understanding from Mikael Jorgensen and Nels Cline brought out every emotional and nostalgic nugget the band contains.
The band did not let genres get in the way of their musical attack. A fast, almost happy "screw you" version of "Handshake Drugs" ended with a crazed, experimental jam while "Sky Blue Sky" had people sitting in chairs, lulled by sweetness. "Stand up, sit down, it's like a Catholic mass," Tweedy said, kicking off his well documented crowd banter. It was funny all night, but also tame.
"Oh you want to sit down?" he said to one audience member, "So this is your first rock concert?" She yelled back that she had seen them four times. "Oh, so this is your fourth rock concert?" he dead-panned. As the night progressed, things only got better.
Pat Sansone, who showcased his side project, Autumn Defense, with bassist Stirratt in March, was not the sensitive troubadour he was at that Cafe Montemartre show. During the hillbilly jam "Walken," Sansone did his best Keith Richards impression when swapping his keyboard for guitar, raising his axe like a rifle and shooting sonic bullets into the crowd. "I'm the Man Who Loves You" began with hyper, sweat-drenched drummer Glenn Kotche standing with arms wide and illuminated above his kit like it was a Van Halen concert. Stirratt even jumped for joy during "A Shot in the Arm," a tune that had the entire audience belting the end chorus at the top of their lungs. Even Jorgenson, despite being in the most hard to see corner of the stage, got his kicks in on the keys.
When folks were not hypnotized by the crinkled nose of Jeff Tweedy, they were certainly focused on newest member, electric guitarist Cline. Despite being the eldest member of the band, he shows that age is not a factor in the readiness to rock!
"Impossible Germany," "Jesus, Etc.," "California Stars", "Spiders/Kidsmoke," and other tunes made for an evening, that like the past, flew by quickly and ended with a slew of memorable moments.