Reviewed by Raoul Hernandez, Fri., Sept. 28, 2001
The answer finally came during the first encore. "This is our second show as a fourpiece," apologized Wilco's commander-in-chief Jeff Tweedy, his Chicago-based quartet having just ripped through "Passenger Side" before bonding with the sold-out throng on campfire fave "California Stars." Afterward, he almost managed a smile. "We're not playing this because they said it in the [Chronicle]," was his defense for the band then pounding their way through Being There's "Monday," seguing into an outta site version of "Outta Mind (Outta Site)." Two more encores followed by audience demand, and when the band was finally wrung out and done, the three victory laps had lasted close to 40 minutes. That the main set had only lasted 58 rather uptight minutes had been all but forgotten. Considering Tweedy would probably rather forget the recent defections of drummer Ken Coomer and multi-everything Jay Bennett, plus Wilco's quick Mexican divorce from Reprise Records thanks to the label not hearing an LP (let alone single), that was probably best. It's a brand-new day for everyone, as it turns out, not the least of which stems from the fact that in the music business of tomorrow, experiencing new music will come from computer downloads rather than rushing down to your local music outlet to shell out $30 for the new CD. Wilcoworld.net is where one can currently "stream" (aka listen to) the band's new album, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, a management spokesperson saying it was a little "gift" to fans given current events. Moving in the same Summer of Love trajectory as the group's 1998 brilliant Summer Teeth, the new album got a workout under the alternately clear and milky cool night sky outdoors at Stubb's. Kicking into the set with Foxtrot's Tweedesque opener "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart," the band also debuted the purposeful "War on War," disaffected "Ashes of American Flags," and the rich, upbeat "Kamera." The songs played well alongside Summer Teeth staples "I'm Always in Love," "She's a Jar," and "A Shot in the Arm," Tweedy grimly determined to pull off the new material and a new band. "Thanks for downloading the album," he said by way of an icebreaker 45 minutes into the show. By then, the four musicians onstage were hitting their stride, following "Kamera" with a ramrod take on "Can't Stand It" and Foxtrotter "I'm the Man Who Loves You," Tweedy getting all Crazy Horse on the solo. Then it was over. Pity opening husband/wife duo the Handsome Family didn't seem half as brief.