A cool, dark space crammed with the listless bodies of an awestricken, markedly young audience, reverberated as a torrent of sound swept through every precipice, announcing itself in the form of wailing guitars, wrenching in their own distorted agony, as the battery could be discerned behind it all, providing the rhythm, the framework for an aural assault that fluctuated from instances of emboldened serenity to impassioned shredding. Such was the scene as Chicago-based alternative country band, Wilco, descended on Miami Beach’s Fillmore at the Jackie Gleason Theater, in support of their most recent release, The Whole Love.
The band has never shied from making music that reconfigures the conceptualization for what their genre is capable of, always experimenting with myriad noises and sounds that would otherwise be cacophonous were it not for their tasteful integration into their grandiosely-scaled songs. Over the course of eight studio releases, the band has always managed to find new ways to make their compositions not invigorating, but also definitive of what a band with clear influences from traditional country music should strive for.
For all of the anguish and pain that are engrained in front man Jeff Tweedy’s verses, there are always implicitly discernible glimmers of hope. He is of the rarest variety of artist – the kind that is capable of unburdening the demons that torment him in the deepest of levels, while having the ability through his distinctively nasally yet emotive voice, to transcend the introspective sense of melancholy that pervades a substantial portion of the band’s repertoire.
While they may be known to most for their justifiably lauded fourth album, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, a masterpiece of the highest caliber, they have remained prolific – in spite of numerous personnel changes since that seminal release, and even garnered two Grammy award wins for their subsequent album, 2004’s A Ghost is Born. The band that appeared on stage was gallantly poised and affirmed, not only with regard to the palpable passion, with which they played their music, but also with respect to their frenetic interplay; with Tweedy playing delightfully off of the monumental solos woven to perfection by lead guitarist Nels Cline.
They kicked started their performance with a three-pronged assault, playing “One Sunday Morning,” “Poor Places,” and “Art of Almost” in rapid succession, establishing the eclectic theme that undercut the entire affair right away. They shifted from album to album with zeal, appeasing old and new fans alike. At one point, deep into their massive twenty seven song set, drummer Glenn Kotche stood triumphantly atop his kit, arms raised in a “V,” as he relished in the applause that electrified the air.
Tweedy jokingly spoke to crowd from his microphone, stating that Kotche had been told by a fan in Brazil that when he stands atop his drums it is the most beautiful thing in the world. The stage lights played off of the music in almost harmonious synchrony, with cool, ominous hues refracting their beams with omnipotence in every conceivable direction, only to be bested in intensity by bright yellows and reds, flickering in unison with the innumerable solos that fill their catalog.
Jeff Tweedy was a constant beam of infectious charisma and humor on stage, as he graced the audience with a soft-spoken humility that would otherwise seem incongruous with someone of his stature in the industry. All of the singles that had made Yankee Hotel Foxtrot so compelling had found their way into their performance, among them “Heavy Metal Drummer,” “War on War,” “Jesus, Etc,” “Radio Cure,” and “I’m The Man Who Loves You.” Tweedy and company departed from the stage on two separate instances, each time prompting a portion of the audience to leave without knowing that an encore was in store. He joking stated that Wilco likes to take the stage for an encore when the crowd is at its lowest peak.
With each encore, the band poured more and more energy into their playing; treating the most avid fans to precisely what they paid to see: a band with a relentless love not only for their music, but for playing alongside one another. Their flourishes of improvisational instrumentation brought new possibilities to their songs that were otherwise only left to interpretation on their studio recordings, and it only reaffirmed what any fan of the band already knew – that Wilco is one of the most creative, intelligent, and forward-thinking outfits in contemporary music, regardless of the genre.
One Sunday Morning
Art Of Almost
A Shot in the Arm
Side With The Seeds
War On War
I Must Be High
Dawned On Me
Heavy Metal Drummer
Hate It Here
I’m The Man Who Loves You
Red-Eyed and Blue
I Got You (At The End of the Century)
Outtasite (Outta Mind)
Hoodoo Voodoo (w/ bass/guitar/keyboard tech Josh on cowbell)