Concert Reviews

Wilco's Jeff Tweedy Recants His Red Rocks Smear at Gig With Sleater-Kinney

Wilco at Red Rocks on August 10, 2021.
Wilco at Red Rocks on August 10, 2021. Jon Solomon

When Wilco played Denver's Mission Ballroom in November 2019, frontman Jeff Tweedy raised eyebrows when he said he preferred the indoor venue over Red Rocks.

“Red Rocks is pretty and everything, but this...I feel you all,” he said. “I can feel you. I don’t like being outside. We played in a snowstorm there one time. Fuck that shit! No rock band should ever have to play in a snowstorm. And we played in several. It’s true.”

But about three-quarters of the way through Tuesday night’s Red Rocks co-headlining concert with Sleater-Kinney, Tweedy looked out at the at-capacity crowd and said, “This is about as perfect as it gets up here tonight,” and then addressed what he said at the Mission Ballroom gig.

“I said I liked it there, and I might have said something not great about this place,” Tweedy admitted Tuesday. “But that place is a piece of shit, and this place is the best. And when we play Mission Ballroom next time, this place isn’t that great. You know what? You’re so lucky you have two amazing places — at least two amazing places. But you can’t beat this. This is the best place in the world, probably.”

While Red Rocks is massive compared to the Mission Ballroom, Wilco still managed to make the show feel intimate. The band kicked off its 21-song set with “A Shot in the Arm,” which first dropped in 1999 on Summerteeth. The lyrics, which read like a Raymond Carver short story condensed into verse, take on new meaning in the age of vaccinations.

Early in the show, the band bounced between material from the past two-plus decades, running through “Random Noise Generator,” from 2015’s Star Wars, and “Side With the Seeds,” from 2007’s Sky Blue Sky, to “One and a Half Stars,” one of three cuts from the band’s most recent effort, 2019’s Ode to Joy, and “I’m Trying to Break Your Heart,” from 2001’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

After “If Ever I Was a Child,” which was propelled by John Stirratt’s buoyant countrified bass playing, Tweedy told the audience, “It sure feels good to do this again. Right?” The band hadn't played a gig in 500 days before kicking off the tour last week.

“I think it’s a real good thing for everyone,” Tweedy says. “Those rocks really look a bit more rust-colored to me. Rust Rocks really doesn’t have a ring to it. It’s good to be back. Thank you so much.”

Maybe it was stored-up energy from being off the road, but Wilco dug into its cuts. During “Impossible Germany,” guitarist Nels Cline gradually ramped up the intensity of his extended solo, and “Heavy Metal Drummer,” “Always in Love” and “Outtasite (Outta Mind)” were all muscularly propelled by drummer Glenn Kotche.

“Love Is Everywhere (Beware)” could have been a metaphor for the entire show. It might sound like some hippie shit, but there was love in the air as Wilco played, particularly when the crowd sang “Love is all we have” during “Jesus, Etc.”
click to enlarge Sleater-Kinney at Red Rocks on August 10, 2021. - JON SOLOMON
Sleater-Kinney at Red Rocks on August 10, 2021.
Jon Solomon
Chicago multi-instrumentalist, singer and rapper NNAMDÏ, who was supposed to be the opener, had to cancel after fracturing his wrist in a scooter accident a few days ago.

That meant Sleater-Kinney opened. During the band's energetic hour-and-fifteen-minute set, it was hard to gauge if the people in the audience, who were still making their way into the venue, were digging what Corin Tucker, Carrie Brownstein and their four touring bandmembers were doing.

Alt-country pioneer Wilco and Sleater-Kinney, who helped spearhead the riot grrrl movement, aren't exactly an intuitive pairing. Most in the crowd, who appeared to be there for Wilco, were sitting down as Sleater-Kinney performed.

But near the end of the set, which primarily comprised songs from the band’s brand-new album, Path of Wellness, as well as four cuts each from more recent efforts No Cities to Love and The Woods, the band won over the crowd. Most in the audience were on their feet, even singing along to "Modern Girl" and dancing to "A New Wave."

While Red Rocks and the Mission Ballroom clearly each have their strengths, Red Rocks was the winner Tuesday night. Tweedy was right: The show was about as perfect as it gets — even if a blanket of haze from wildfire smoke made it impossible to see a bed of Colorado stars.
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jon Solomon writes about music and nightlife for Westword, where he's been the Clubs Editor since 2006.
Contact: Jon Solomon