Wilco's bountiful concert at Strathmore includes Rahm Emanuel

TWEEDY BIRD: Lead singer Jeff Tweedy plumbed the depths of Wilco's songbook before an audience that included Rahm Emanuel.
TWEEDY BIRD: Lead singer Jeff Tweedy plumbed the depths of Wilco's songbook before an audience that included Rahm Emanuel. (Kyle Gustafson For The Washington Post)

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Thursday, April 1, 2010

"Our motto for this tour is 'Leave 'em wanting less,' " quipped Wilco executive chef Jeff Tweedy at the Music Center at Strathmore on Tuesday night. "When you leave here, you'll be very full."

He wasn't kidding. The pacing might have been haphazard, but Tweedy and his five mates served up course after tireless course, a three-dozen-song banquet of art rock, folk rock, country rock, and -- once Nels Cline strapped on that double-necked guitar -- rawk-rock that ran to three hours and excavated tunes from every Wilco album, plus side projects and a gorgeous cover of Big Star's "Thank You Friends" in memory of Alex Chilton.

The acoustically pristine, not-a-bad-seat-inna-house Strathmore proved an ideal environment in which to savor the group's musicianship, never sharper than with its current six-man lineup. Though Tweedy occasionally lamented (and indulged) the brayed-out song requests, audible throughout the wood-paneled room, the audience -- which included White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel -- was deferential enough to permit the band a dynamic range impossible in a club or an arena.

The Strathmore is a reverent, not-a-little-churchy kind of place, and revealed some sonic details that felt otherworldly in origin: the resigned scrape of Tweedy's voice on the stunning suite of "Poor Places" and "Reservations," or Glen Kotche's storm of percussion on the mournful "Via Chicago."

Then there was the entire middle act, wherein the band parked itself on the lip of the stage in a ring lit by plain old floor lamps for a lengthy acoustic set of rarities: "Laminated Cat," "When the Roses Bloom Again," "Some Day Some Morning Sometime," the oldie "Passenger Side." Wilco in your living room, in effect. The fans didn't love it when Tweedy started writing about his newly tranquil home life a few years back, but this is one settled-down version of the band we're lucky to have.

-- Chris Klimek

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