On Tuesday night Midwestern indie rock heroes Wilco arrived back in Columbus at the Mershon Auditorium in support of its newest release Sky Blue Sky.
Fellow Chicagoan Andrew Bird took the role of opener this time around. I was actually surprised at how many people had never heard of him before. Jeez people, come back to the world of the living.
On a side note, I learned last night that Cincinnati's Heartless Bastards are going to be opening for Wilco soon on a few dates.
And for the drunken 40-year-old man who almost ruined the concert for me last night, I thank God that you spent most of the show stealing everyone else's seats so you could get a better view. It gave me plenty of alone time to waft the smell of distilled gin from the air and to avoid being forced to talk about your love of "A Boy Named Goo" all night.
For all accounts, the show was a perfect amalgamation of why Wilco is in a class alone amongst songwriters these days. Seeing them live is like witnessing a nice ballet of six members working in perfect symbiosis (six bespectacled and slightly pudgy members). And when they all come together, they go straight for a hard kick to the balls.
There were the hits (Via Chicago, Sunken Treasure, Red Eyed and Blue, Hummingbird, Outta Site Outta Mind). There were the alt country bits (Airline to Heaven, Walken, Forget the Flowers). But I think what stood out was the nice mix of forward thinking art-rock being performed alongside such standards that made for an interesting show.
Tweedy was in top form, although he seemed a little subdued the whole time whilst rocking out. He was clad in a much-too-large white suit equipped with bedazzled flames or flowers (not sure which, didn't have great seats).
For me the entire concert was reduced to one moment: Via Chicago. The band's performance of this song seemed to define why I love Wilco. It was so well-crafted that it made me question what a great song could be. It was inspiring and I never say that.
Another great moment happened in the first two seconds, as guitarist Nels Cline tripped over a guitar cord and took a header onto the ground as he walked on stage.
Speaking of Cline, I think what many will come away with after last nights performance is how he has finally found his role in the band. The last time Wilco came to Mershon, Cline was noodling all over the songs. He seemed out of place and his tone was weird.
Today, the Columbus Dispatch called him the "MVP" of the show and declared him as the reason the songs worked so well live. Sure, he played great, but I'm not so sure I agree. I just think Cline has learned exactly what Tweedy wants and shines at bringing that vision alive. Tweedy loves the Television-style lead guitar and Cline is doing that more now. Last time around he was in definite Allman Brothers territory.
I thought Bird was an excellent choice of opener, because he shares the same love of avant garde indie pop. Bird also sat in on Wilco's Jesus, etc. on violin.
Thankfully Bird's set was better than the last time he was in town. I honestly feel guilty that I don't enjoy seeing the man perform live. I think his talent is boundless and his songs are beautiful. But the minute he starts looping violin parts I want to run out of the building. It was much easier to take in a shortened opening set.
I went to this show all by myself and I soon fell into the problem of people who go to shows by themselves: Strangers started talking to me. They were drunk.
So while I was desperately trying to hear Wilco perform Sunken Treasure (one of my favorite songs ever), I had Mr. Drunken 40 year-old father of three telling me the history of Wilco as if I just stumbled into the show for my goddam health. Really? He was addicted to drugs?!
The man was explaining to me why he likes "Sunken Treasure" so much AS THE BAND WAS PERFORMING IT RIGHT IN FRONT OF US.
Sometimes I hate people.