Review: Wilco @ the Wharton Center

Cline’s flailing guitar work finds the sonic extension of his writhing wiry frame as he plays with reckless abandon, throwing his body and his Fender Jazzmaster towards the amp for a wavy feedback on Shot In The Arm. Tweedy joked about a computer lab rigging from a hopeless romantic for the number one requested online song, from the band’s first album, A.M., Should’ve Been In Love. Cline would bounce around from mandolin and slide guitars on Deeper Down, before jumping back for some blistering solos leading into a three guitar harmonizing with Tweedy and Sansone on Impossible Germany.

Cline wasn’t the only one playing musical chairs, as Tweedy would pick up the bass and Stirratt handled acoustic guitar for It’s Just That Simple, with Stirratt on the lead vocals of the country laden A.M. tune. Handshake Drugs, had Cline’s spidery grip speeding up and down his fretboard building to a peaking harmonizing duel with Tweedy.

A true highlight of the evening came after a lack of crowd participation in Summer Teeth as Tweedy joked after the song, “I don’t think you all were singing on that one. Maybe on this one…” As the band started Jesus, Etc. and Tweedy stood with his microphone at his back while the lights flipped onto the crowd as they softly sang the swaying Yankee Hotel Foxtrot song. The quiet hum of the song slowly built through the auditorium as Tweedy stood on stage grinning before taking the last verse himself.

Next would be an interlude on 2007’s Sky Blue Sky – Hate It Here and Walken. After turning and hitting the gigantic gong behind him, drummer Glenn Kotche stood hovering over his kit before slamming down to start I’m The Man Who Loves You. Tweedy and Cline screeched out the beginning riffs before the falling melody winds up the beautiful tune like an old toy before it sends it bouncing between the slide riffs and squealing guitar lines.

Spiders (Kidsmoke) looked like a raucous ending to the fun show with the long screeching tune a likely end for the enthusiast crowd response at the end of each verse of “on a beach in Michigan.” However, it would be the quiet Hummingbird that would slow things down before the band left the stage to close the roughly hour and a half set.

For an encore Wilco (The Song), the first track off their latest album, made for a perfect band intro, as a PA recording introduced the band that will love you, baby. The encore would be quintessential Wilco from all eras, starting with some xylophone from Kotche on Being There’s Misunderstood and the upbeat sing-a-long from YHF’s Heavy Metal Drummer, because who doesn’t love playing KISS covers and getting stoned? A little journey though drunken memories on Passenger Side and Tweedy being excited on Candyfloss.

After a little whistling on Red-Eyed & Blue, it was Cline shining again on I Got You (At The End of the Century), as he stumbled and ricocheted around the stage, thrashing like a teenager about to throw his first guitar through his amp playing in a garage band. Another personal treat, and the only song off of the Mermaid Avenue sessions, would be the closing Hoodoo Voodoo. The bubbly Woody Guthrie penned tune left the crowd with one final guitar duel between Cline and Sansone to end the roughly two hour show.

Wilco continually impresses live for the same reason they do in the studio, by destructing and rebuilding their own music for different interpretations that provide a new angle into their unique songs. Jeff Tweedy will perform two solo shows at Chicago’s Vic Theater this week before Wilco head down south and make their way north to their last show of the US tour at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Hall and onward to Japan, New Zealand and Austrailia.

February 21, 2010
Wharton Center
East Lansing, MI

Set: Bull Black Nova, You Are My Face, I Am Trying to Break Your Heart, One Wing, A Shot in the Arm, At Least That’s What You Said, Should’ve Been in Love, Deeper Down, Impossible Germany, It’s Just That Simple, Handshake Drugs, You Never Know, Summer Teeth, Jesus Etc., Hate it Here, Walken, I’m the Man Who Loves You, Spiders (Kidsmoke), Hummingbird

Encore: Wilco (The Song), Misunderstood, Heavy Metal Drummer, Passenger Side, Candyfloss, Red-Eyed and Blue, I Got You (At the End of the Century), Hoodoo Voodoo

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