Wilco, and Jeff Tweedy, have put themselves on a pedestal with consistently awesome shows and definitive American style; it's difficult to even review their concerts because the only competition they have is themselves. That being said, I'll go ahead and try...
Opener Autumn Defense was just a fraction of Wilco in every sense of the word, illustrating that musicians and songwriters are not one and the same (and few truly excel at both). Autumn Defense plays incredible music, but this is the second time I got so lost in the lyrics that I couldn't find my way back to average appreciation. I hold these--members of Wilco and clearly fantastic musicians--to a high standard. And they let me down with lukewarm lyrics that feel insincere. Not a revelation, just an observation, and a clear passion for the music by the members of AD makes the shows enjoyable yet underwhelming.
|This picture is not from the Lincoln. Very strict camera policy.|
The stripped down setlist left little desired. I forgot how cold I was in the venue and lost myself in the bare versions of these songs, only pausing every once in awhile to catch an adored lyric that felt a little out of place without more instrumentation. Or to chuckle at one of many one-liners Tweedy tossed at the audience (though if you were surprised, must've been your first rodeo). Or to notice the 9:30 Club staff harassing a patron for having their phone or camera out--that created an unattractive air that is discussed in the scorecard below.
Tweedy capped the evening off by playing three of my favorite songs, two with Autumn Defense. It felt like the climax I'd been waiting for, the magic of his songs being fully realized by a beautiful backing. Don't get me wrong, I adore Jeff Tweedy alone, but it's incredibly rare for a band to at least appear to have chemistry on stage, so it seems almost shameful to avoid it. It also served as a testament to the talent of the musicians of Autumn Defense, even if they aren't great songwriters.
It was a lovely evening with a few hiccups. See the scorecard for why it wasn't a ten.