Review: Wilco @ Coveleski Stadium

There were few new surprises in store this evening, but such established relationships can relieve the pressure of creating new shared experiences. An evening basking in nostalgic moments is what we all need sometimes, reminiscing of the days spent going 100 MPH as the world outside passed by in slow-motion. We recount those experiences etched into our consciousness, the subtlest of cues can catalyze a chain reaction of dusty memories tucked away just out of reach. We look back at who we were, where we started out, how far we have come, to provide us with that now often misplaced perspective once taken for granted before we let the real world swallow us whole.

Sunken Treasure began the show inauspiciously, with Nels Cline’s lap steel buzzing like a mosquito, tastefully adding color to the original canvas.

“Music is my Savior … I was named by rock and roll”

Memories and emotions come flooding back. What is a momentary pleasure for some, for others Music is the Pied Piper guiding us through life, the prism that distills our Soul. This is where you belong, friend. Welcome Home. Ashes of American Flags followed, an old story with a new twist, concluding with a majestic crescendo I hadn’t heard before. Rewriting the past or vividness previously unrealized? With Wilco, it’s a little bit of both.

As we become comfortable in our skin, we gain the confidence to take chances, to stretch boundaries, to express desires held back out of timidity. Who would have thought a song like Bull Black Nova would appear in the Wilco repertoire? And yet it was there all along, hidden underneath the surface. The jagged, pulsing guitars that recall the
proto-punk of Television would have shocked people a few years back. But once its kraut-rock leaning stylistic predecessor Spiders (Kidsmoke) was introduced, like a friend with a new style of clothes or a radically different haircut, we realized there was a side of Wilco they simple hadn’t let us hear before. Now, I can’t imagine them existing without this edgy aspect that was the highlight of the evening.

At times the band felt over-anxious at their first Chicago(-ish) area show since October, seemingly rushing through some songs. I Am Trying To Break Your Heart and She’s A Jar, songs that require a delicate touch, felt somewhat deprived of their emotional weight. I suspect this may also be attributed to Glenn Kotche’s recently suffered broken toe. Other times, the unit melded into transcendence. Impossible Germany’s 3-guitar attack, melodic point & counter-point creating underlying tension in the verses, dissolving into the slow steady build of Tweedy and Pat Sansone playing in unison, gaining momentum below Cline’s patient lead. The band gave extra room for Nels to explore, making the resolution that much more gratifying.

Old lines will still ring true, but without a fresh perspective, conversations with old friends may meander, lull. Your attention drifts. I started taking notes about the economics of higher beer prices and the astoundingly arhythmic dancing of an audience member. Though no less a worthwhile experience, after you catch up, reliving the past can only generate so much. Once things fit the archetypes we know, we don’t invest as much time into the details as we used to. I couldn’t remember the titles of many of the new songs. In fact, I’m not sure I ever knew them at all. They were taken for granted. Wilco being Wilco. What may sound like a complaint is comforting, actually. Knowing that your friends are still the same is reassuring.

The long goodbye began as we hit the greatest hits portion of the show. It’s always the same. We recount what we love about each other, often times using the same phrases. I’m The Man Who Loves You, Red Eyed & Blue > I Got You (At The End Of The Century) have concluded my evenings with Wilco countless times. Even the new twists merely reinforce what we already know. Relatively new covers of Neil Young (Broken Arrow) and Big Star (Thank You Friends, with Yo La Tengo) are the influences they’ve always worn on their sleeves.

I’ve grown old with Wilco. I’ve fought loneliness, I’ve tried to remove the heavy lid, and let me tell you about being misunderstood. These are not projections, these are my emotions, this is my life. They are not unique emotions, but we are all individual experiences. High Fidelity’s Rob Gordon asked, “What came first, the music or the
misery?” The Misery.

Music is the language that helps us translate how we feel, it lets us know that no matter what, we are not alone. Someone out there has felt what you’re feeling and they’ve made it through. There’s thousands, millions of others out there who are listening to the exact same songs for the exact same reasons. Walking out of the show, I realized that Wilco is the sonic arms that hold you, the sonic shoulder to cry on. And like an old friend, Jeff Tweedy already knew me better than I knew myself.

Set: Sunken Treasure, Ashes of American Flags, Either Way, I Am Trying to Break Your Heart, Bull Black Nova, You Are My Face, One Wing, Company In My Back, A Shot In the Arm, Side With the Seeds, She’s a Jar, Say You Miss Me, Impossible Germany, Forget the Flowers, I’ll Fight, Box Full of Letters, Handshake Drugs, Jesus, Etc., Can’t Stand It, You Never Know, Heavy Metal Drummer, Walken, I’m the Man Who Loves You

Encore: Broken Arrow (Neil Young cover), Airline to Heaven, The Late Greats, Red-Eyed and Blue > I Got You (At the End of the Century)
Encore 2: Thank You Friends (Big Star cover) (with Yo La Tengo)

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One Response

  1. thanks for the write-up Jon. and Joel’s pics are shweet! looking forward to attending solid sound next week.

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