Wilco Mayo Civic Center, April 30 Words and photos by Andrea Myers
There is an undeniable mystique surrounding Jeff Tweedy. Critics adore him, fans idolize him, and his musical peers regard him as a luminary. He is simultaneously poppy enough to be embraced by the mainstream and odd enough to respected by the snobs. Somehow, it seems, Jeff Tweedy can do no wrong.
So I wasn’t really that surprised that I was blown away by Wilco’s show in Rochester. I was expecting to be blown away, and Tweedy & Co. did not disappoint. There was so much to love about their live performance: the perfectly mixed instrumentation, Tweedy’s endearing interactions with the audience (“Wow, they are really getting hot and heavy!” he remarked about a couple making out in the crowd), and the band’s obvious excitement about playing the first show of their tour. With a set list that covered their entire career and not one, but two encores, Wilco kept fans on their feet for their entire show at the sold-out Mayo Civic Center.
The show was Wilco's only stop in Minnesota for their current tour, and a large portion of the audience was from the Twin Cities area. At one point, Tweedy asked the crowd how many of us were from Minneapolis and how many from Rochester, and judging from audience reaction it seemed we were split about 50-50.
Aside from being entranced by Tweedy's strange, disarming powers, I was particularly impressed by the expertise and attentiveness of his backing musicians. Having never seen Wilco before (for shame!), I wondered to myself if I would recognize Nels Cline, a renowned jazz guitarist that has received high praise for his solo work and his contributions to Wilco. Not two minutes into the show, however, Cline made himself known. His dizzying technical solos and master of the distortion pedal brought an overwhelming intensity to songs that sounded much subtler on record.
Personal highlights from the evenings included an epic version of “Via Chicago,” “Theologians,” and my favorite Wilco song, “At Least That's What You Said.” The crowd seemed especially riled up by their more pop-friendly material, including “Hummingbird” and “Heavy Metal Drummer,” and during the first encore we were treated to the old hit “Box Full of Letters.”
By the time they came out for their second encore, Wilco had been playing for two hours and I could barely focus on the individual songs anymore. There were only two thoughts swimming around my head by the time we started filing out of the theater: “Hot damn, Nels Cline is amazing,” and “When do I get to see Wilco again?”
Hell is Chrome You Are My Face Company in My Back Via Chicago Impossible Germany Shot in the Arm Side with the Seeds At Least That's What You Said How to Fight Loneliness Pot Kettle Black Handshake Drugs Cars Can't Escape Poor Places Hummingbird Jesus, etc. Hate It Here Theologians Walken I'm The Man Who Loves You
Encore #1 Misunderstood California Stars Box Full of Letters Heavy Metal Drummer
Encore #2 Red-Eyed and Blue I Got You (At the End of the Century) Casino Queen
Thanks to Wilco message board Via Chicago for help with the set list.