Although most of the setlist is familiar to anyone who has seen Wilco since the releases of Ghost and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, the songs seem to possess a new zest about them with Tweedy’s newfound joy. “Sunken Treasure,” a Wilco classic once performed as gut-wrenching poetry, has been reinvented as a plodding, build-and-release number with an energetic finale.
Tweedy’s stage banter included a dedication of “I’m the Man Who Loves You” to his wife Sue, as well as a rant about the importance of crowd participation prior to “Heavy Metal Drummer.” Always one to encourage sing-alongs, the crowd happily obliged during “Jesus, etc.”
The highlights of the night were two songs from the Wilco/Billy Bragg Mermaid Avenue release, which features previously unheard lyrics by Woody Guthrie: “Airline to Heaven,” now performed with twangy fills from Cline, and the rare “Remember the Mountain Bed,” a song often performed by Tweedy solo but a treat for a full Wilco show. “Via Chicago,” a mandatory Windy City selection, showcased Glenn Kotche’s frenzied drumming at it’s best, with arms and legs flying and cymbals crashing.
In typical Wilco fashion, the encores stretched out almost beyond the length of the original set. During “Hummingbird,” Tweedy ventured to the front of the deep stage and smiled brightly and genuinely. He dedicated the newer “What Light” to bassist John Stiratt’s new baby and insisted on another sing-along to the classic “Kingpin” to close the show.
At the end of the night, it was hard to tell who had more fun, the band or the fans recovering from the previous night’s Thanksgiving feasts.
Chicago Theater Auditorium
Friday, November 24
Shake It Off
Hell Is Chrome
A Shot in the Arm
I am Trying to Break Your Heart
Muzzle of Bees
Company in My Back
War on War
Airline to Heaven
I’m The Man Who Loves You
In a Future Age
Heavy Metal Drummer
Let’s Not Get Carried Away
Bonus video: Here’s a brilliant version of Jesus, etc. from Leno:
Bonus audio: For the uninitiated or the bored at work, here are some of the Wilco tunes mentioned in this review, courtesy of StreamStash: Handshake Drugs (live), Hell Is Chrome, Jesus, etc., Heavy Metal Drummer, Via Chicago and I’m the Man Who Loves You.