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ACL Fest review: Wilco

Staff Writer
Austin 360

By Michael Corcoran

Editor’s note: This article was originally published October 12, 2013

Last night Jason Cohen of Texas Monthly tweeted that Wilco “Liberty Lunched it” at Stubb’s and anyone who was at those shows at the old W. Second St. haunt knows exactly what he meant. They rocked for well over two hours. “Casino Queen” did flow.

Saturday night, Wilco “Zil-killed it” with an hourlong, 13-song set that touched on every period of their career without coming off like a sampler. Songs that could’ve jammed longer, such as “Art of Almost” early on and “Impossible Germany,” which is their “Dark Star” for Nels Cline’s serpentine fire (except Wilco plays it every night instead of every 8 years), were kept under eight minutes. Meanwhile, “Hummingbird” was released into the good air like something you whistle to work at a job you love.

“Heavy Metal Drummer” was as hard as it got and “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart,” with Monklike piano skronks and “Via Chicago,” with it’s somehow appropriate drum thunder, were the jazzy departures. The set was about half-changed from the previous Saturday at 6 p.m.

There’s an old showbiz adage that you never act with Harry Morgan and kids because they’ll steal the scenes, which came to mind when Lubbock’s Richard Bowden sawed his majestic working man’s fiddle all over Doug Sahm’s “Give Back the Key To My Heart.” Wilco heard Bowden when he toured with Ryan Bingham and they played shows together over the summer. Wisely, they used him on only the first three songs, including “Misunderstood” to open and the ancient “Forget the Flowers.” Then came “California Stars” to start all over again.

It was a laidback hour for what looked to be 30,000 fans. As the orange sun set on “A Shot In the Arm,” it seemed quite beautiful, this performance by a band with nothing to prove except that they’re the men who love you.