Wilco with Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band at LaLacheur Park in Lowell, MA (July 11, 2009)
Wilco has struck upon a strategy of brand name imprinting not seen since Jon Spencer shouted "Blues Explosion" during every other verse fifteen years ago. So, Wilco (the band) organized Wilco (the tour), supporting their new Wilco (the album) by kicking off the set with "Wilco (the song)." They might as well have some fun with it, as Tweedy's been accused in the past of being a somewhat taciturn and mercurial personality, and their track record has been pretty much spotless since the Uncle Tupelo dissolution. No bad vibes tonight at the minor league ballpark which served as the venue tonight; kids under eight got in for free, people were jammed in the outfield and the stands, and the only slight bummer was the downpours towards the end which cut the gig short. Still, we got enough brilliance from Tweedy and Nels Cline, especially standing out on "Impossible Germany," I Am Trying To Break Your Heart" and newly minted classics "One Wing" and "Bull Black Nova." Cline gets all the gushing about fulfilling the guitar hero slot in the band, but Tweedy is certainly more than up to holding his own, and is certainly underrated as a player. His role on "At Least That's What You Said" put an exclamation point on this in a very emphatic manner.
I'm sure the drenching rain pulled the plug on some of the newer material (it would have been nice to hear "Everlasting Everything" or "I'll Fight") but the precipitation premonition made a grand entrance when, during "Via Chicago," there were brief fireworks off in the distance, punctuated by a bright blast of lightning. Ah, the vagaries of New England summers, especially this one. Regardless, the show proved Wilco's on top of their game with very little peer competition at the moment...loose, tight, short, epic- they've got all of that covered and more. Conor Oberst opened and the presence of the Mystic Valley Band is a welcome addition; he's ditched (or at least heavily attenuated) the emo-folk tendencies and produced some really nice Dylan/Americana-styled songs, built on an acoustic base that had no problems filling the stadium with sound. I went in a skeptic and came away fairly impressed.