Wilco Part Two: Standing O

Wilco, night two at the Moody, reviewed

Wilco gets Moody, 12.1.11
Wilco gets Moody, 12.1.11 (by Gary Miller)

Wilco’s take-down last night of the Moody Theater bears no comparison to its Austin City Limits taping there the previous night. Television’s one thing, especially for a band with a disc titled Kicking Television, but rock shows are sacred. Ritual. If Wednesday’s Wilco taping was its best, last night’s rock fest dutifully followed suit.

Commander Jeff Tweedy took charge immediately – against a backdrop perhaps best described as high school theater version of The Nightmare Before Christmas – with an acoustic guitar and his eternal rock star “Reservations” from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot to open. Coming off 45 minutes of acoustic Nick Lowe, who ended his solo set with Elvis Costello’s “Alison,” his own “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding,” and Rockpile’s indelible “When I Write the Book,” Wilco’s entrance equalled a first chord struck and allowed to reverberate.

Then came “The Art of Almost.”

Guarding the entrance to Wilco’s new The Whole Love, “The Art of Almost” whips up a Who-like sonic maelstrom in hammering out one of the band’s most powerful mood rings. Segued on the LP into one of Tweedy’s all-time great hooks, “I Might,” a sequence repeated both nights live in Austin, “The Art of Almost” pushes, pulls, and finally collides the frontman’s dueling impulses: introspective/extroverted. McCartney’s melodies on Lennon’s late-period innervisions.

After the one-two of “Art” and “Might,” Wilco’s see-sawed through light (“She’s a Jar”) and dark (“Black Moon”), bash (“Misunderstood”) and pop (“Dawned on Me”), gratefully vintage (“Box Full of Letters”) and bashingly new (“Standing O”).

“Born Alone” and “Rising Red Lung,” from The Whole Love and back-to-back preceding the sextet’s Allman Brothers-like “Impossible Germany,” slowed Wilco’s tangible Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers locomotion to a Neil Young-leaning starkness in turn leavened by the main set end-run from populist Wilco favorite Being There, “Red-Eyed and Blue,” “I Got You” (At the End of the Century),” and a ripping “Outtasite [Outta Mind].”

Just ahead of the last encore, a better reprise of the previous night’s closer – Wilco and Nick Lowe romping through his “Cruel to Be Kind” – Tweedy stepped to the mic for one last address.

“Thank you very much, Austin. You’re the best and you know it.”

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Wilco, Jeff Tweedy, Nick Lowe, Tom Petty, Neil Young, the Who

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