Live review: Wilco with Nick Lowe at the Cobb Energy Centre in Atlanta, 9/29/11
After initially being pegged as a “country rock” band, Wilco has shed that skin over the past few years. Critics hail the band as “The American Radiohead.” With the release of The Whole Love (dBpm), it’s clearly time to reconsider this and begin saying, “Radiohead is the English Wilco” (listen to the lead-off track “Art Of Almost” and you’ll understand).
The Chicago group, headed up by Jeff Tweedy, has once again released a critically acclaimed and commercially successful album. The first single, “I Might,” is more pop than usual, with a sixties organ keeping it happy. Wilco kicked off the Atlanta show with “One Sunday Morning,” a beautiful song, despite it’s twelve-minute length. As he played the Rickenbacker and sang those songs, Tweedy exceeded his annual quota on smiles. Dude was having a good time. And how could he not be? Looking at all that talent surrounding him: the indomitable Nels Cline shredding the guitar, bassist John Stirratt, drummer Glenn Kotchke and multi-instrumentalists Pat Sansone and Mikael Jorgenson. It was a master class on rock.
“We’d like to announce a special guest we’ve had on stage this evening. Nels is playing Duane Allman’s guitar. He is borrowing it for the night,” Tweedy announced. “This is like using Picasso’s brush or Noah’s hammer.” One could argue that it’s like Monet borrowing Picasso’s brush. The band played most of the excellent new Whole Love, seamlessly weaving in these songs with classics from such albums as Sky Blue Sky, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Being There and Wilco (the Album).
More than once, Tweedy mentioned how much better this second night crowd was than the previous group. Of course, this is standard operating procedure for a band to announce and will always garner cheers and applause. However, it was somehow believable, especially when he said, “They were just weird.” For sure the energy level was turned up to 11 during this second show, as several fans who attended both shows attested. At times, the crowd’s voices far outblasted those of the band, which can be a blessing and a curse for an artist (It’s reassuring that everyone knows our lyrics, but shut up and let me sing). It’s a nice problem to have.
Wilco played for about 90 minutes before retiring backstage to wait for the inevitable encore. Then another seven songs and 30 minutes later, they called it a night. One downside was that Mr. Lowe had joined them in a couple songs during the previous night’s encore. Not tonight. He was probably halfway back to England when the lights came up.
It was a phenomenal performance and the venue’s superlative acoustics only added to the experience. Wilco continue on the Whole Love tour in the states, then jump over to Europe, than back to the U.S. They’ll wrap up in Chicago in mid-December. If you see one concert this year, make sure it’s Wilco.
Nick Lowe, a.k.a. “The Jesus of Cool,” proved why he’s the britpop/new wave god responsible for inspiring so many artists. His sound is at once folksy ballads and acoustic-style Clash. And a minimalist set it was from Mr. Lowe, accompanied only by his acoustic guitar and that voice. And that white head of hair held together with those black Buddy Holly glasses. But the songwriting is among the best. It was a treat hearing his 1979 hit “Cruel To Be Kind” in such a setting.
Lowe performed several cuts from his new release The Old Magic (Yep Roc Records). His songs continue to be an amalgam of witty storytelling and deep thinking. Always a winning combination. Lowe surely felt the love in the room as fans roared between songs. Though there was no “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding” or “I Knew The Bride (When She Used To Rock And Roll)” it was a moving performance and made this two-for-one bill priceless. “All Men Are Liars,” “What’s Shakin’ On The Hill,” “I Love The Sound Of Breaking Glass” and “The Beast In Me” more than satifsied hardcore Nick fans.