A Couple Nights Ago: Wilco Serves Reheated Leftovers Instead of Meat and Potatoes
August 24, 2007
Greek Theater, Berkeley
Better Than: Getting high and listening to Wilco at home.
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Last night, Wilco’s crash symbols and slide guitar swirled all the smells of the Greek Theater—cannabis, tobacco, beer breath, eucalyptus—around us, and we, their twenty-thirty-forty-something audience rocked just enough to feel like high school again but not enough to spill our beers, or feel sore in the morning, or break a sweat, or wrinkle our nice sweaters, or even feel all tingly after the show. Great shows should enkindle these things but Wilco’s performance did not. Instead, their uninspired music loitered inside of an endless three hour set, proving that an epic set doesn’t make you an epic band.
Wilco’s most imaginative song was one that placed singer Jeff Tweedy at the helm with a crisp, Dylan-esque folk song, and juxtaposed it with a seething earthquake cacophony of drum and bass that seemed to be in a completely different time signature (or maybe had no time signature at all). The two parts were played simultaneously but were completely disparate. In this, Wilco succeeded in creating great art—a seamless weave of intoxicating consonance and sobering dissonance.
But most of the time, Wilco reheated a leftover casserole of 70’s country rock. If I want country rock, I’ll just wait for the next Eagles or Fleetwood Mac tour, and if I want reheated casserole… well, I never want reheated casserole. Rehashing a musical style that’s only a couple decades old is too much too soon, it’s rarely cogent, and is never as good as the masters.
Wilco did deliver some decent inter-song banter. At first, after no member of Wilco addressed the crowd during the first few songs, I thought they were going to pull a Ryan Adams. (That is, play an entire set without talking to the crowd). But after the third song, Tweedy chirped a little courtesy quip, “You guys smell high.” Later in response to a playful heckler, Tweedy said, “I saw you smoking pot, sir, you’re too high to talk to me.”
Tweedy also insisted that Wilco does not smoke pot.
Wilco did a long encore, and as the music lopped off our ears, and the lights splattered our corneas into gooey residue on our faces, it seemed that the band’s set was over. Phew.
But suddenly, as the band walked off stage, my mutant powers kicked in and I had this telepathic conversation with the band:
Me: Good job, Wilco, that was a perfect set length. Thanks for the jolly good time.
Wilco: But Ty, the crowd wants more.
Me: No they don’t, Wilco, the forty-somethings are already leaving.
Wilco: But we have more songs. We’re gonna do a second encore.
Me: No, Wilco, don’t do it! You’ll make fools of yourselves!
Wilco: Look, Ty, there’s enough people left if you count the janitors!
Wilco ignored me and launched into some more musical masturbation in front of an over stimulated crowd. Most of it is a blur for me, but I remember one song repeated the apropos lyric, “on and on and on and on…” They finally finished the set by getting the audience to clap to the beat all by themselves, which made the whole thing seem less like a rock show and more like a Raffi concert.
As the band finally turned their damn amps off, our telepathic conversation resumed:
Wilco: Wasn’t that awesome, Ty?
Me: Whatever, Wilco, I’m leaving.
Personal Bias: I had the best seat in the house—right in front of the trashcan.
Random Detail: There were water fountains with free water instead of what you get at most large venues—$7 for a test tube full of water. The Greek Theater is by far one of the best venues in the Bay.
By The Way: Guitarist Nels Cline recently got the Chicken Pox. So if you were at the show, check for spots.