Wilco at the Wang Theatre, 9/20/11

I had the great fortune of getting to see the legendary, incomparable Wilco a few weeks ago at the lovely Wang Theatre here in Boston, and I have to say that they more than exceeded the high expectations I’d set for the night. Though I’ve been familiar with the Chicago-based band for some time now, I always seem to miss them when they come through town. But the rumors are true— Wilco is one of the best acts to see live, period. There’s a reason they are as well-respected as they are—even President Obama calls himself a fan— and the evidence exists in their ability to be at once both incredibly precise and refreshingly adventurous in their approach to music. Their several records are undoubtedly terrific and deserve all the praise they continue to receive, but through and through, Wilco is a live band. The songs captured in the studio come to life so organically when the band gathers on a stage that it seems a crime to even try to capture them in a studio setting; it’d be like sealing the lid of a Mason jar too tight with a firefly inside. Which is to say that Wilco is more than a jam band that allots a certain amount of time within each song for show-off solos— they’ve got an agenda as musicians, and the chops to back it up.

Frontman Jeff Tweedy and crew were in town promoting the release of their newest record, The Whole Love, which is the first the band has released on their new record label, dBpm. After an opening set from singer-songwriter Nick Lowe, the band came out and played three of their new songs back-to-back, notably the haunting and ethereal “Art of Almost,” the best track on the new record for my money. (Watch the video of Wilco debuting this song on Letterman— it’s terrific, and you’ll get a little glimpse into their showmanship.) Interspersed between cuts from The Whole Love, fans were treated to favorites like “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart,” “Handshake Drugs,”  and “I’m The Man Who Loves You.” Tweedy, though mostly quiet and somewhat reserved in front of the microphone, had the sold-out room in the palm of his hand. And there was never a doubt in the two-hour set that the band themselves were having a blast, with Tweedy even making note of the group’s love for Boston audiences.

All in all, it felt like a really special night for music. And while I don’t usually do this at TBA—mostly because I forget—here’s the set list, courtesy of setlist.fm.

Wang Theatre

Art of Almost
I Might
Black Moon
I Am Trying To Break Your Heart
One Wing
Bull Black Nova
At Least That’s What You Said
One Sunday Morning
Shouldn’t Be Ashamed
Whole Love
War On War
Born Alone
Handshake Drugs
Impossible Germany
Dawned On Me
A Shot In The Arm

The Late Greats
I’m The Man Who Loves You
Outtasite (Outta Mind)


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