By Xin-rui Lee, Staff Writer
Beneath the grandiose and endearingly kitschy decor of the Beacon Theatre on March 18, a mish mash of young-uns and dad-rockers — identifiable by their over-representation of plaid and flannel — packed into the two balconies and orchestra seating. Just 5 songs in and the entire sold-out audience was on their feet, throwing sincere fist pumps and belting diaphragm-busting lyrics.
Wilco rode the waves of their fans enthusiasm as it ballooned with the unmistakable opening of “I am Trying to Break Your Heart,” peaking at the mass sang along to the chorus. The energy tapered with a tender rendition of “Misunderstood,” but never once waned enough to lose the captivated audience.
Wilco makes music that somehow affixes a sense of nostalgia to the present. They make the sort of songs you play on a lazy Sunday morning as you cook up a stack of premix pancakes paired with organic maple syrup. It can be warm and nurturing, or straight up rock and roll with a more than frequent assault of instrumental noise. All of these aspects are tied together by lead singer Jeff Tweedy’s astute and relatable lyricism, which at the same time sounds as though he is actively trying not to be either. Having amassed an enormous following during the span of their 23 year-long career, it was no surprise that their 4 night residence at the Beacon Theatre was a sold out affair.
They dipped into their back catalogues and performed a healthy mixture of songs from their earlier years, along with plenty from their most recent album. 2016’s “Schmilco” sees Tweedy regale us with tales of his past and appropriately features a painfully humorous album cover by Spanish cartoonist and illustrator Joan Cornellà. Following the album’s “We Aren’t the World (Safety Girl),” Tweedy set off on an unprompted monologue, the cause to which he was alluding to initially didn’t click.
“Be optimistic. We don’t have time for pessimism!” Tweedy said.
Only with the mention of a particular person being responsible for the depression of many, some might even say of an entire star-spangled nation, did the audience understand what Tweedy was getting at.
“Let me tell you what my 83 year old father said,” Tweedy said. “‘Don’t let that monster make you f-cking sick!’ Now here’s a song from our first album.”
Upon which they proceed to perform “Box Full of Letters,” followed by more songs “from a simpler time” as Tweedy puts it, such as “Heavy Metal Drummer” and “I’m the Man Who Loves You” from fan favourite album “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.” They inevitably played the encore game, and the audience never allowed for a moment of silence, eagerly awaiting their return to the stage. They rounded off their 4-song encore with “Spiders (Kidsmoke),” and as they shuffled backstage once again, the house lights refused to come on. After another moment of non-stop cheering, the 6-piece reappeared for an unexpected second encore. This time the final song of the evening was dedicated to rock and roll legend Chuck Berry, the news of his passing breaking earlier that same day.
“I don’t think a moment of silence is appropriate for Chuck Berry, I think a moment of jubilation and joy is!” Tweedy said, to which fervent nods and woops were returned.
And the night came to a close remembering Chuck Berry’s immeasurable contribution to the music we know and love today with the performance of “A Shot in the Arm.”
Email Xin-Rui Lee at email@example.com.