When Jeff Tweedy [pictured below] came onstage with his frazzled hair, clad in faded black jeans and jacket, I had to ask myself — is this really the man responsible for the music that significantly impacted my awkward years? Can such high quality music come from this one unassuming dude? And, if so, can it be played so well in a live setting? To answer with the words of a friend of mine who sat next to me, "Wilco is so good live, even the ushers like it." Yes, even the people who checked my ticket and showed me to my seat seemed to be enjoying last night's sold-out show at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater. [All photos by Nicole Kibert].
In their nearly three-hour set, Wilco played songs spanning from 1995's A.M. to 2009's Wilco (The Album). They worked in their more well-known cuts as well as some of more obscure selections, from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot's "Jesus, Etc." to "Bob Dylan's 49th Beard," a track from their virtually unknown More Like The Moon EP.
About 14 songs into the set, the stage was transformed, stagehands replacing its simple but effective backdrop of colored lighting with some cozy bedroom lamps, and the six members of Wilco drew in close for a more intimate delivery of their recordings. Tweedy commented that this was the way they preferred to play, and I liked the softer touch of an acoustic break in the middle of a harder rocking set, even if it is a stretch to call it a break, since the band virtually never stopped playing throughout the whole night.
Wilco seamlessly transitioned from their acoustic set back into their more rocking electric songs with a somewhat relaxing, somewhat frightening version of "Via Chicago," which paired soporific guitar playing with where-the-hell-did-that-come-from dissonant noise and satanic drumming. Before launching into the next number, Tweedy announced to the mostly-seated crowd, "One of these songs, you guys are all going to get up." I chose to get up at the point and was treated to a rollicking version of "Heavy Metal Drummer," a buoyant song that made even the lazy and tired begrudgingly rise.