Wilco jams with admiring fans
"I don't know what else to say except that I love you," Jeff Tweedy said about seven or eight songs into Wilco's set Thursday night at ACL Live. "And that's not pandering."
Tweedy has every reason to love the fans. They've stuck with the band for almost 20 years, during which he hasn't always been so nice. The band went through a lot of changes in that time, both in the lineup and the style of music. They've put out album after album, now on their own label, which they probably wouldn't have if people had abandoned them when "Ghost is Born" didn't meet expectations after "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot."
At this point, Wilco's live show is a big reason for the loyalty. Along with an "Austin City Limits" television taping the night before, it was the second night for the band at the venue, and the show sold out immediately when tickets went on sale a couple months ago. Tweedy understands this and designs the band's shows around what the fans want.
For a while now on wilco world.net there has been a page to vote for which songs should be played at each show. And the band plays those songs, along with other songs that people love to hear.
Thursday it was melancholy opener "Reservations," big rock numbers including "I Got You," the moodier YHF fare "Pot Kettle Black" and "I'm the Man Who Loves You." The new stuff from "The Whole Love" was there, too, and some of it, like the garage pop "I Might" and the more ambitious "Art of Almost" fit in nicely too, but that's not what is paying the bills.
Even more so than bands like My Morning Jacket, Wilco is a band that continues to creep into jam band territory, with shows that are more about a collective experience than the actual performance of the music.
Thursday it was "Misunderstood," with the crowd providing lead vocals. Tweedy joked about losing the Grammys to the Foo Fighters and got big laughs ("The Whole Love" was just nominated in the Best Rock Album category). He and the crowd both know it doesn't matter, because awards have nothing to do with the band's success. It's not like he hasn't always done this kind of thing, but at this point it's what's expected of a Wilco show. People talked before the show about how many they've seen — four, five, six — and they will keep going.
Guitarist Nels Cline: Amazing. His experimental free-jazz/rock hybrid style soared, especially on "Impossible Germany."
Lights: One of the nice things about having a venue like ACL Live downtown is the potential for a good light show, which happened Thursday, with weird shadows of hummingbirds bouncing around the homemade-ghost handkerchief background and strobes and other effects popping along with the music.
Opener Nick Lowe: Still sounds fantastic, very cool to hear him do "Alison" and "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace Love and Understanding." Like they did the night before, Wilco brought him out at the very end, as a bunch of people were streaming out because it seemed as if the night was over, for "Cruel to Be Kind." People sang it on the way out afterward.