There is something magical about Wilco’s music – like the Tardis their songs are much bigger and more exciting on the inside, once you get past the unassuming exterior. And when you do so and really hear it, it becomes a companion for life. Good moments become better, and the bad stuff can be borne when accompanied and articulated by Jeff Tweedy and his sensational band.
Having been a fan from the beginning I’ve long regretted my missed opportunities to see them live (“only” managing to catch Jeff Tweedy himself on his solo/Tweedy tour) so seeing the ad in time to get a ticket for this gig made up for a lot of this year’s disappointments. And the actual gig made up for many more, this and all the other years of my life…
What we got was two hours of beautiful, funny and intelligent songs elevated live through some sensational playing from everyone on stage. I’m famously not a fan of guitar solos, put what Nels Cline, backed by Tweedy himself plus Pat Sansone, do to these tunes is really adding extra fireworks to the party. The mayhem of “Via Chicago” is exhilarating, and “Impossible Germany” becomes two sizes larger through the genius of Cline’s guitar. At one point when he’s furiously strumming his guitar he looks rather like the cartoon man on their latest album cover, after he’s been plugged into the electric socket… And as if this wasn’t enough, at one point he pulls out a twin necked guitar; very Afterword:y!
And so it goes on, every tune getting the treatment it needs to grow and soar, creating two hours of absolute bliss for a longtime fan. It takes an hour or so before Jeff starts talking to the audience, and when he does we get so excited and so many strange random shouts (“Show us your pigtails!”) flies back at him that he jokingly replies “See now why I waited so long to talk to you!” He then ask us to sing “the Swedish birthday song” for one of their stage crew, and we do, but one half of us sing it faster than the other to everyones mirth. The atmosphere – which is electric from the start – just keeps getting happier, friendlier and filled with so much love and appreciation for everything they do.
The posted photograph is unfortunately shite – because I managed in my excitement to turn a wheel on my camera and used some strange setting all the way through the gig – and in the dark I couldn’t see what the problem was, suspecting that my camera had been upset by the cold on the way there…imagine my Doh! moment when I got home and had a proper look at the camera… But I was too much in the moment of the gig to really be focused on taking pictures anyway – as it should be.
What else can I say? A wonderful setlist, of course; they’re in no shortage of great material! Five great tracks from the latest album, and classics from all of the others. Starting quietly with “Normal American Kids” and ending their second encore with a blistering version of “Spiders (Kidsmoke)”. Gorgeous performances of “I am Trying to Break Your Heart”, “The Late Greats”, “Misunderstood”, “If I Ever was a Child”, to name but a few that I remember, but really; there was nothing to fault with any of the tracks performed – the only complaint you could make would perhaps be personal favourites being left out of the set, but as Jeff said: “Because we’ve never had any hits, we can never play all of the favourites – because you all have different favourites!”
Not enough of them – I don’t know if the halfterm holiday had something to do with it, or if the promotion was lacking (I certainly haven’t seen any posters anywhere, was lucky to spot a small ad in a magazine), but we certainly didn’t fill the hall. But everyone there were obviously mad fans, and very enthusiastic from start to end. From late teens to early 60s, both men and women and lots of couples, and quite a few Finns taking the boat over to Stockholm. Zero fuckwittery.
When I first arrived I thought we’d be even fewer, but I guess they were all hiding in the bar until it started.
It made me think..
Leaving the arena, with snow starting to fall gently down in the cold November evening, I felt warm all the way from my heart and soul out to my skin – the goosebumps were there for another reason.