Wilco @ Enmore Theatre, Sydney (21/04/07)
Being absolutely rooted to one spot, smiling, swaying, dancing and singing was my experience of Wilco at the Enmore Theatre in Sydney last Saturday evening. This was (finally) my first live sighting of Jeff Tweedy and there was not a moment of disappointment throughout the set that he and his Wilco cohorts delivered. Jeff looked centered, relaxed, calm and very happy to be playing. His battle with health and drug issues over the last few years seem to be well and truly a memory. Bringing this energised and tight re-incarnation of Wilco to Australia for a handful of shows, just prior to the release of Sky Blue Sky, gave us some new songs and selections of material from many of the past Wilco studio efforts.
Kicking off with the warm and gentle You Are My Face from the upcoming album, set the scene for a lovely interaction between the audience and the band. The sound was absolutely pristine from the first note on the guitar and the vocals were the as clear as a blue sky on a sunny spring day. Praise to the man behind the knobs! You could hear each note and every word that was sung, something so very important when you are listening to the genius of the lyrics Jeff has penned.
Five songs or so into the evening’s performance, Jeff finally recognised there was an audience that he might want to welcome. I recall hearing of another show where he did the same, saying at that concert that “sometimes I am having so much fun up here that I forget to talk”. With his impish grin and smiles back at the applause during I Am Trying TO Break Your Hear, Muzzle Of Bees, Handshake Drugs and A Shot In The Arm, you could tell that life was good both on the stage and within the heart and soul of Wilco.
Jeff finally said hello and loosened the collar on his jacket and asked us if we knew we were from the Premier State. He also asked us in attendance if we called Sydney “steak and kidney”, which was met with a resounding, “Nooooooooooooo”! After that he said, “Well as the Premier State, you are the Loudest State!” Jeff did not have much to say and let the music and band do much of the talking. He did confide to us, tongue in cheek, that he thought Australia was settled by pirates and had us sing along to Kingpin with our pirate backing vocals (“arrrrrrrrrrrr!”). He blamed the fact that he was American on his lack of knowledge of Australia. Nothing hard to believe there!
The band were stunning with Nels Cline on guitar and lap slide absolutely sublime, John Stirrat the only other original member on stunning bass and vocals, and joined by Pat Sansone on guitars and the like, the unstoppable Glenn Kotche on drums and the beautiful playing of Mikael Jorgensen on keyboards. Having heard many Wilco shows through the power of the internet, I must say this is quite possibly one of the best ones I ever listened to. As the show was to be web cast via the band’s webpage (http://www.wilcoworld.net/) you knew that we were in for a treat and that no problems with the sound were going to be tolerated! Check out their website in the near future so you can either hear the show for the first time or re-live your experience with the best American(a) band on the planet.
Highlights towards the second half of the show were Via Chicago where the guitar and vocals and noises mirrored the Neil Young-ian influences; great vocals and playing on Theologians; 33 – “nothings’ shouted out by Jeff during Misunderstood; rocking out on I’m A Wheel; and the warm and fuzzy California Stars with words by Woody Guthrie and music by Wilco.
Finishing with a tremendous version of Spiders and the sounds still echoing in our souls, we wandered out to the streets of Enmore; smiling, breathing and alive with the fact that music can open your soul, and your heart and your mind. Wilco made it happen for nearly 2.5 hours and I think the magic of the evening will be with the folks who gathered on this April evening for some time to come. Catchy, complex, exceptionally well played music, what else do you want or need?
We eagerly await their return to our shores and I watch the coast line for their pirate ship. Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!!