Even arty rock bands can fall in love with Miami Beach. "Sorry it took us so long to get here," Wilco main man Jeff Tweedy told the crowd of over 2500 packing the Fillmore Miami Beach on Monday, at the opening of their U.S. tour. "Wilco gone wild!"
Actually, it was the sold out crowd that was in love - deliriously happy to finally have Wilco playing on their own in Miami (they'd only played here before as part of the Langerado festival). Their enthusiasm seemed to take Tweedy by surprise. "Wow, this is the first show of the tour and it feels like the last one. You guys are great." "Now you're starting to mouth along with my banter now," Tweedy told someone in front. "That's scary." There were people with white hairs and bellies bulging in their Ramones t-shirts, and giggly girls in sandals (spring breakers, I bet, since no natives wear sandals when it's 50-some degrees) with beer slugging dates, all ages, all loving the music, thirsty for it. For Jesus, etc, the crowd sang the whole song - Tweedy stepped in at the end, but he didn't have to - and they still would have been grateful.
The show was called An Evening With Wilco, and the band stretched out to fill almost three hours, and it was deeply satisfying and alive all the way through. There was a first 'set' lasting over an hour, then a break, then another section - acoustic guitars, stand-up bass, accordion, pedal steel - that was quieter, more relaxed, more down home. Sky Blue Sky sounded very Basement Tapes, and Tweedy sounded like mellow Dylan. Then it was back to electric dissonance again, those moments of surprise musical agony that Wilco does so well.
Tweedy could be a curmudgeon at this point, but he's not - or at least he has a sense of humor about being 42 and a potentially jaded rocker. He just seems happy to be there, playing. (But then, after finally kicking a lifetime of migraines six years ago, I'd think his relief would last many many years). Maybe he's funny everywhere, but given how dark and deep his songs often are, his wit was a bit of a surprise. He played songs that people had requested before the show, including a Woody Guthrie tune (that got cheers too). He let a cute-geeky kid named Max sing and even play Tweedy's guitar on California Stars. "yabba Dabba Doo!" Tweedy yelped, "An arcane reference lost on younger concertgoers." Even when he scolded people for videotaping - the only thing the band says they hate, and given the lousy sound quality of all those lousy concert videos that show up on youtube, who can blame them - he was only gently scornful. "I can SEE you, you know" he said "I have EYES. I'm not a movie screen up here. And we WILL make you leave."
Ah, but you know, he still has faith in music. You Never Know could have been an oldster chiding the shallow youngsters "come on children, you're acting like children, every generation thinks it's the end of the world" but live it becomes an anthem, glorifying uncertainty and surprise, because even though Tweedy doesn't care anymore (and he does), "you never know". When they sang Misunderstood, people cheered as Wilco sang "you still love rock and roll" over and over and over, singing along with them, yelling along, screaming until guitar dissonance and pounding drums overpowered and wore them out, and still Wilco kept playing.
[Because I'm told people like this kind of thing, I'm posting the set list here. There's a couple songs indicated just by initials - and I may have left a couple out. Correct if you want, but gently]
Wilco (the song)
Bull Black Nova
You Are My Face
I Am Trying to Break Your Heart
A Shot in the Arm
What’s the World
Sky Blue Sky
Casino [Casino Queen?]
The Late Greats
Hate It Here
Outta Mind (Outta sight)