Review: Wilco @ the Orpheum Theatre

The next major moment of the show arrived at the end of Poor Places, when the band swelled into another musical peak. As a palette of sounds blanketed the theatre, a well-trained crew quickly built a new set towards the front of the stage that included a drum set and keyboards for Pat Sansone and Mikael Jorgensen. Seamlessly, the opening pattern of acoustic guitar emerged and the band was now seated in a tight intimate block. The song was sure enough Spiders (Kidsmoke), which closely resembled the versions heard throughout Jeff Tweedy’s solo shows.

The acoustic portion of the show, while lighter and softer, was just as heavy emotionally. How To Fight Loneliness exposed the desperation of the song’s narrator, and Forget The Flowers bounced along happily (helped by along by Stirratt switching to an acoustic upright bass). Nels Cline soloed on a nylon string guitar, bringing out the percussive qualities of his fast runs down the fingerboard.

Tweedy used this portion of the show to talk freely with the audience, encouraging song requests. He even gave away free dinners to fans who had requested songs through Wilco’s website, further reinforcing the band’s integral and deep relationship with its fans. Tweedy hilariously poked fun at an overzealous request for Jesus, Etc., mimicking the audience member’s primal shouting.

The band managed to squeeze in a old Wilco favorite, I Must Be High, with Tweedy mentioning that band “hadn’t yet played the song in this configuration,” referencing the evening’s unique acoustic set-up. When Airline to Heaven began, Tweedy kept strumming and singing while the other band members retreated back to their former stage positions. As smoothly as the acoustic stage was set up, the crew struck it down and the band finished the song back in the electric set up, with drummer Glenn Kotche banging his drums with sleigh bells.

Keep in mind, that up to this point the band hasn’t even taken a break. Nobody expected the band to keep going, but they did. Tweedy permitted the audience to sing lead vocals to Jesus, Etc., and was impressed with the audience’s loud and soulful singing. The noise came right back up with the intro to I’m the Man Who Loves You – Kotche pulled a rock star pose on his drum throne, collapsing right back down into his drumkit on the first beat of the song. A slightly mushy Thank You Friends (a Big Star cover) brought an end to the main set.

With only a minute for the band to catch its breath backstage, Wilco came back out for three more songs, capping the evening drenched in sweat, but with a well-deserved ovation. With an extremely well-rehearsed set and an undying display of appreciation for the fans, Wilco is at a new musical peak. This show also marked the announcement of a music festival to be hosted by Wilco this August in Massachusetts, featuring Wilco itself and various side projects related to the band. If Tuesday’s show is any indication of where Wilco is headed, I’d reserve my tickets for Solid Sound festival as soon as they go on sale tomorrow.

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