Beefy, behatted and beaming, Wilco leader Jeff Tweedy took the Green Stage at sunset on a cool, green evening. Throughout the band’s 90-minute set he seemed at once at peace and energized. As usual, he didn’t say much beyond the usual thank yous, but he repeatedly tipped his hat to the audience and at one point offered up the opinion that “it doesn’t get any better than this.”
The feeling was mutual. Wilco is one of those rare bands who can’t do wrong because their approach is quality: If you can’t make something fantastic, then don’t do anything at all.
At the end of “I’m Trying to Break Your Heart,” he muttered “goodbye” and tipped his hat, as if in recognition to the audience’s attention. In the monumental “Via Chicago,” one of those characteristic Wilco songs that combine anodyne musical sentiments with discordant bipolar dissonance, he seemed resigned to the song’s hard rock prerogatives. The audience, who knew the song instinctually, raved when drummer Glenn Ktche freaked out in his normal way. The light was brighter. The world was livelier.
It was a mellower set than the one they did at the White Stage some ten years ago, and yet more intense, owing perhaps to Tweedy’s disposition to make sure this audience was thoroughly incorporated into the Wilco aesthetic. In the tougher number, Nels Cline showed off his particularly classical lead guitar skills. The freakouts were fully appreciated. Is Wilco the Grateful Dead’s successor as the greatest American band?
With his battered jacket and Big Bill Broonzy t-shirt, Tweedy was the ultimate alt-rock dork, but there was nothing precious about the performance. Whatever his demons, Tweedy seemed happy to be here, and we were extremely happy to have him. He honored the setting and the circumstances with great, transporting music.