Wilco Shows A Looser, Giddier Side At 9:30
Sometimes even reluctant rock stars have to work for it. Not until "Heavy Metal Drummer," the penultimate number of Wilco's ragged-but-right set at the 9:30 club Tuesday night, did a woman (we assume) throw her bra at frontman Jeff Tweedy. The gesture was probably more an endorsement of the tune -- a wistful evocation of the hair-band-scored summers of Tweedy's 1980s adolescence -- than a sincere come-on. But still. Who knew that women even liked Wilco?
Actually, Tweedy appeared for once not to be working so hard, and the result was warmer, funnier and more satisfying than any local Wilco gig in years. Though the oft-shifting lineup includes virtuosos like ax man Nels Cline and percussionist Glenn Kotche, the band, despite his denials, is still All About Tweedy. His default performance mode seems to be furrowed-brow studiousness, which sometimes gives Wilco shows an austere, prickly vibe -- all head, no heart, and as for the hips, fuggedaboutit. But after a slow opening segment that began with the gentle sway of "(Was I) In Your Dreams," Tweedy, sporting a wide-brimmed fedora, was downright friendly, even taking requests. Maybe it's because somebody in the audience gave him a very convincing-looking Grammy.
Or maybe it's because he's allowing himself to take some pride in his band's intermittently brilliant catalogue: Earlier this month, Wilco played five nights in its home town of Chicago, revisiting its complete studio-album songbook (less B-sides, collaborations, etc.). Thus Tuesday's career-spanning 28-song, 135-minute set was agreeably loose, serving up giddy takes of pre-Y2K classics from "Being There" and "Summerteeth" and rarities such as "Too Far Apart" and "Just a Kid." The latter was from "The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie," though you could be forgiven for thinking it was a Ramones B-side, or maybe an old Uncle Tupelo number. Either way, it rocked.
-- Chris Klimek