September 27, 2011

Wilco - Merriweather Post Pavilion - September 25, 2011

The Semi-Whole Love

Photo from Washington City Paper
Touring on their new record The Whole Love (out today on their recently formed label, dBpm Records), soundproof favorite Wilco came into "town" on a breezeless, September Sunday night.  Merriweather was abuzz with thirty-somethings and in many cases their recently sired offspring for a night of rock, roll and a little bit of sheer musical magic.  NPR opened up their airwaves, Maryland opened up her highways, and IMP opened up their beer taps for my most anticipated show of the year.

Unfortunately the boys, who know how to deliver a near perfect show, seemed a little off.  Opening with lead track Art of Almost, the band got off to a promising start, winding through the digitally-infused space jam with aplomb, Tweedy looking dapper as always.  They followed that up with I Might, the rocking single from the new record.  Sounds pretty good, they know this new record already.  The crowd, however, did not.  The pit was absolutely stagnant, the pavilion nearly completely seated after the third new track, Black Moon.  Jeff, who normally begins his crowd interactions after the fourth or fifth song, was distant, disengaged, uncharacteristically reserved.  And his energy is what drives the live show without a doubt.  I'm not sure if it was illness, fatigue, nerves, or just generally unhappiness with the crowd, but without that Tweedy pixie dust, the band became a jukebox playing well-rehearsed songs sans intensity.

And It wasn't just the lack of energy that showed the band wasn't clicking.  Nels had a couple of out-of-tune solos; the mix was all Tweedy rhythm guitar and drums; the keys of Jorgensen were obviously absent; Nels' brilliance was understated on every song save Impossible Germany.  And the venue was terrible - $9 beers; food stands that over-charge and then close early while the employees eat the very food they are out of in front of you; recycling bins removed prior to the encore; bathrooms that haven't been cleaned since April.  It's clear to me more and more that customer satisfaction at IMP venues is at or near the bottom of any priority list that may exist.  At least with Live Nation I expect to be treated poorly.  Finally, the audience alternated between cool person, asshole smoking some sort of unidentified herb that smelled like a burning couch cushion and thirty-something with his two-year-old daughter on his shoulders (with no ear coverage for the little ones of course).  I suppose one in three ain't bad.

But, per usual, I had a great time.  Opener Nick Lowe was charming, jangling through hits penned for musicians more famous than himself then later rocking out just a little with Wilco.  Setlist highlights were new songs I Might, One Sunday Morning, Whole Love and Standing O combined with classics like Nova, Letters, War on War, Shot in the Arm, HMD and I'm the Man.  And clocking in at just under two hours, even when things don't seem to click the boys know how to put on a show worth the price of admission.

See scorecard below; in order to show you just how much we love Tweedy et al, I included the average of all other Wilco-related shows we've scored in the past (five in total) as well as the average concert we've score in our history.  Think I'm crazy?  Making this all up?  Too lofty expectations?  Tale of the tape time - listen for yourself and tell me I'm wrong: Merriweather Show vs. Sasquatch! Show.  Is this the signal that Wilco is no longer a must see, a permanent buy order here at soundproofblog?  Hardly.  In my opinion this was a blip, a speedbump, a hiccup in an otherwise healthy band's tour.  So friends in Nashville, don't go selling those Ryman tickets unless its to me.

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