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Wilco in Indianapolis

I was formally introduced to Wilco in 1999 in Lithuania. An odd place to get to know this very American band, but then again, Vilnius, Lithuania’s capital, boasts the world’s only state-funded memorial to Frank Zappa, and at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, The Grateful Dead sponsored the Lithuanian basketball team (hence the tie-dyed uniforms). The album was the 1st volume of “Mermaid Avenue,” the Wilco/Billy Bragg collaboration that interprets unrecorded Woody Guthrie lyrics. Blake, a Peace Corps Volunteer, pretty much spun it nonstop. I liked it well enough, but it took a few years of my friend Courtney (“Wilcogal”) berating me about what I was missing before I broke down and borrowed Kicking Television from the library. That’s not bad, I thought. Then Jack and Darla talked me into seeing them in Bloomington. A good show, I thought. I still wasn’t there, and wouldn’t be until the release of Sky Blue Sky. I played it every single day for a month. Even after collecting the rest of Wilco’s catalogue, I still think it’s their best album, bursting with great pop songs and compelling jams.
Now I’m a pretty serious fan, so it was with much anticipation that I awaited the beginning of The Whole Love tour. How convenient that I live only an hour from Indianapolis. (Starting a tour in Indianapolis? Let’s remember that Jeff Tweedy lives just up the interstate.) And what a way to start a tour. Nick Lowe opened, looking more like a retired metalworker than a rock icon. Like most people, I usually, at best, tolerate opening bands. But you couldn’t ask for more than Nick Lowe, just him on the acoustic guitar ripping through old classics like “Cruel to be Kind,” Ragin’ Eyes,” and (What’s so Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding,” a song covered famously by Elvis Costello, as well as a great new song already dear to my heart, “I Read A Lot.” Lowe has been around since the 60’s, but you’d never know it by his voice. It sounded just as good since I’d since him last, opening for Costello in the mid-80’s. His performance was rewarded with something I’d never seen for an opening act: a full house standing ovation. Good stuff.
And then Wilco. Yeah, it was good, perhaps just too reliant on their concert staples. For me the highlight was the very first song, “Art of Almost,” the opening cut from The Whole Love. One guy near me summed it up best: “Wow, that was really out there. We’re talking Pluto!” It’s a very different song, closer to Syd Barrett Pink Floyd than anything else I’ve heard from Jeff Tweedy. The rest of the show was typical, high octane live Wilco, but again, a little reliant on staples. More than half the set list was identical to their show at White River a few years back. We got some great jams, though, in “Impossible Germany” and “At Least that’s What You Said.” The other new songs sounded great as well, though surprisingly, they only played five altogether. They did throw in a few not so staplish songs, like Summerteeth’s “In a Future Age” and “I’m Always in Love.” At under two hours, I was left with wanting more. I wonder if there are still tickets available for tonight’s gig…
Set List:
Art of Almost
I Might
At Least That’s What You Said
Bull Black Nova
In a Future Age
I Am Trying to Break Your Heart
Handshake Drugs
War on War
Born Alone
You Are My Face
Impossible Germany
Via Chicago
Dawned on Me
I’m Always in Love
A Shot in the Arm
Whole Love
Jesus Etc.
I’m the Man Who Loves You


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