Hello, Prince of Petworth readers! Your faithful chronicler of all things upper-Northwest has allowed me to spend a few moments recounting what I can remember of last night’s Wilco concert.
Who am I? I’m author of one of the winning contest entries. Remember the picture at the Tabard Inn? The guy who put his dad in the shot and exploited a personal tragedy so he could go to a rock concert. That’s me. And yeah, I know what you might be thinking but c’mon, it’s WILCO.
When critics hailed their 2002 release Yankee Hotel Foxtrot as Wilco-meets-Radiohead they were inadvertently giving credence to the idea that as Radiohead has come to be recognized as the world’s greatest band, Wilco may also be considered America’s nominee. Since then they’ve released three more albums, including a double-live, and won two Grammy’s. All reasons why it was so surprising to see them, rock royalty, on stage at 9 PM. Review continues after the jump.
By the time I met Dan and Jennifer (author of the other winning entry) outside of the 9:30 Club the band had already played a handful of songs. With the club packed to a capacity I had never seen before, we were left to mill about in the back near coat check, straining to catch a glimpse of the stage. This gave me valuable time to assess the man behind PoP, a blog I’ve been following for the past few months. If you’ve never met Dan perhaps my first impressions can fill in the incomplete visual image you might have of him. Smaller in stature but nonetheless engaging, with a head of hair that swoops away from his neck, Dan looks and acts like an overactive mallard (but in the best way possible; thanks again PoP!).
For this, the first of two nights at the 9:30 Club, Wilco wore a uniform of black button-ups, with the only sartorial outlier being lead-singer Jeff Tweedy’s cowboy hat. As a signifier of importance, the hat might have been more appropriate on Nels Cline. Cline, the guitar virtuoso who joined the band four years ago, got one of the night’s biggest cheers for his solo on “Impossible Germany” which, if YouTube comments are to be believed, has become something like Wilco’s “Stairway.”
It’s either a testament to Tweedy’s continuing sobriety, and the maturity that comes with it, or Cline’s ability to gel within the band that he gets so much front-row treatment; Tweedy’s past has shown he’s not shy about firing people. But Occam’s razor might suggest it’s Cline’s crisp, inventive play that keeps him relevant. What Cline does with the guitar is akin to an Olympic luger who races in a Crisco-soaked body-suit. The man is simply incapable of producing friction.
For a band with a near-limitless catalogue Wilco balanced impressively between new and old. While paying deference to their most recent, and most commercially successful, release Sky Blue Sky, the band also ran through nearly a dozen tracks from earlier albums Being There and Summerteeth. Between songs, Tweedy put up with fan’s near-constant requests admirably. At one point, after an unintelligible request, Tweedy retorted, “We’ve already played, like, 10 songs we’ve never done in D.C.” Whether or not someone in the band or a member of their support team really keeps track of this stuff, the comment gave the impression of a group that absolutely deserves the support it receives from fan’s all across the country.
One group near the front returned the favor by presenting Tweedy with a fake Grammy, a nod to Sky Blue Sky’s recent nomination. From my vantage point in the back it was impossible to tell of what construction was made the faux-statuette (someone closer to the stage, help me out?) but nonetheless, from a distance, it was impressively crafted.
As the band came back on stage for their second encore, a man behind me talked about a set he’d seen in Chicago that lasted three-and-a-half hours. Checking the time, I realized that Wilco had been playing for nearly two and it felt like half that time had actually gone by. And so I realized, for those who’ve never been to a Wilco show (like me before last night) or to those attending tonight’s final D.C. performance, a simple maxim is in order: come early, stay late and expect to enjoy everything in between. I know I did.
Thanks again to Dan for sponsoring such a creative contest and providing the ticket. And thank you, loyal readers of the Prince, for taking a break from the normal brevity and architecture porn that rules the day around this here site to listen to me moan about some silly rock group.