Wilco Part One: Capitol City
Previewing tonight's Wilco show with Wednesday's ACL taping
By Raoul Hernandez, 4:03PM, Thu. Dec. 1, 2011
“This one’s for you, Austin,” smiled Jeff Tweedy toward the end of Wilco’s two-hour Austin City Limits taping last night at the Moody Theater. No ode to urbanity, new LP cut “Capitol City” nevertheless worked wonders against ACL’s world famous backdrop: “Capitol city skyline photo/Skyscraper shines the sun so.” .
Wilco’s fourth ACL taping since the mid-1990s, Wednesday’s epic performance for a packed house may well have been its best. The Windy City sixpiece remains several band lifetimes removed from its shaggy alt.country beginnings, but with most recent album The Whole Love, Wilco’s new millennial emergence as an avant-garde Americana juggernaut now grooves a newfound equilibrium. Never has this band been so comfortable and confident live as it is presently.
Opening with the last and longest song on The Whole Love,” laconic 12-minute harvest “One Sunday Morning,” Tweedy & Co. prefaced not only nine of the new disc’s dozen compositions, but also the sonic maelstrom Wilco loves indulging. These boys, often in a three-guitar front line (hello Skynyrd), live to make noise – pop noise, rock noise, “Heavy Metal Drummer” noise, and to the discomfort of a staunch segment of its fanbase, dissonant noise. “Art of Almost,” which opens The Whole Love like “Achilles Last Stand” opens Led Zeppelin’s Presence – explosively – wraps Wilco’s experimental tendencies in Tweedy’s trademark pop song ambivalence only to then shatter its modernity upon the old-school hook of the succeeding “I Might,” which live rolled a chunky magic.
“Black Moon,” “Born Alone,” “Open Mind,” and “Whole Love,” all new songs, formed the spine of the 90-minute main set, which connected back to Wilco’s studio rebirth on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, whose “Poor Places,” “Radio Cure,” “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart,” and “Jesus, Etc.” slotted the ribs to the set-list. Charging towards the encores with another Whole Love pure pop delight in “Dawned on Me,” segued nicely into “Humminbird” from A Ghost is Born (where Wilco picked up motorik tempos), the band’s clatter never impeded on Tweedy’s quilted vocal sincerity. His a capella moment in the eye of “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” cemented one end of Wilco’s performance spectrum. On the other, Nels Cline’s volcanic, deconstructionist bursts on a guitar once owned by Duane Allman brought down the house.
“I don’t know if there’s ever been a city better for us in the world than Austin,” nodded Tweedy as the 30-minute mark approached on the encore. “Or any other band.”
Nick Lowe, tonight’s opener at the Moody for a concert Wilco sold out long before the announcement of Wednesday’s ACL taping, capped the taping by leading his tour sponsors through a rough and raucous take on his indelible Top 40 hit “Cruel to Be Kind.”
That’s Wilco in a song title. “You’ve got to be cruel to be kind, in the right measure”....