Wilco and Okkervil River
Friday, July 3, 2009
Red Rocks Amphitheatre
Better than: Wilco's show at the Pikes Peak Center last year.
Just as Wilco took the stage, the theme from the Price is Right played and two people cloaked in a camel suit pranced across the stage. Sure, it might have been a bit silly, but so is having a camel on the cover of your album, which is the case on the band's latest recording, Wilco (the album). Whatever the case, the camel, the game show theme and the bouncy opener, "Wilco (the song)," all seemed to set the lighthearted tone for the evening.
While the six guys looked like they there having fun playing for a sold out Red Rocks audience, it didn't get in the way of a stellar performance. If anything, it enhanced the evening.
Jeff Tweedy may be a damn fine songwriter and singer, and during Friday night's show he also showed the crowd what a hell of a guitar player he is as well, as he displayed on "I'm the Man Who Loves You." There were times where it was tough to tell Tweedy and guitarist Nels Cline apart, particularly when they were both picking rapidly and heavy on the vibrato on "At Least That's What You Said."
Early in the set, Tweedy, Cline and Pat Sansome delivered the first of a few triple electric guitar assaults on "Bull Black Nova." About three quarters into the song, when Cline and Tweedy when started soloing it was like one of many sonic shifts throughout the night. It was almost as if all six guys in the band collectively flicked a switch at the same time to kick a song into overdrive. A similar thing happened a few songs later on "One Wing" and then in a big way on an outstanding take on one of the night's highlights, "Handshake Drugs," after which Tweedy said, "It was great to hear that song performed correctly."
Tweedy's vocals also triggered similar moments as well, like on "A Shot in the Arm," where when he's repeatedly screaming the line, "Something in my veins bloodier than blood," the rest of the band seemed to notch up the intensity right at the same point. Cline's playing also seemed to help elevate the band's playing at times, like on "Impossible Germany" and "Ashes of American Flags," which prompted Tweedy to say, "That was epic, Nels. You're a beast."
While there many intense moments throughout the two-and-a-half hour set, the band toned things down a bit, like when bassist John Stirratt switched to acoustic guitar and sang wonderfully on "It's Just That Simple" from the band's debut, A.M. "Everlasting Everything," from Wilco (the album) was a gorgeous way to close the first set. According to the www.wilcobase.com, this was the first time the band played the song live.
The first encore was damn near epic. After a remarkable take on "Ashes of American Flags" the members of Okkervil River joined Wilco for a spirited version of "California Stars." The band completely nailed "Misunderstood" with Tweedy yelling "Nothing" forty-something times near the end of the song. Tweedy kicked out the rapid-fire guitar riffage on "Spiders (Kidsmoke), sounding a bit like Cline by way of Tom Verlaine. During the "Spiders," Tweedy had nearly everyone clapping above their heads (because Tweedy said that's the way they clap at KISS and Queen shows).
The band could have easily ended the gig with the bubbly version of "Hummingbird" and it still would have been a great show, but the guys came back for a four-song second encore after the camel made another appearance with Tweedy's sons, Spencer and Sammy. The kids also came back a few songs later and played cowbells on "Hoodoo Voodoo." The guys fully went out swinging on the rocking "I'm a Wheel."
Personal Bias: Each time I've seen Wilco, the show has been better than the previous one. It's like these guys just keep outdoing themselves.
Random Detail: Nels Cline quoted Television's "Marquee Moon" during a guitar solo on "Handshake Drugs."
By the Way:Openers Okkervil River seemed a bit lethargic at the beginning of their set, but stepped up their game halfway through and delivered a decent performance.
Price Is Right Intro
Wilco (the song)
I Am Trying To Break Your Heart
Bull Black Nova
You Are My Face
Shot In The Arm
At Least That's What You Said
It's Just That Simple
Can't Stand It
Shouldn't Be Ashamed
Hate It Here
You Never Know
I'm the Man Who Love You
Ashes Of American Flags
California Stars (with Okkervil River)
The Late Greats
Heavy Metal Drummer
I'm a Wheel