Wilco preview new material at Boston show

A review of Wilco at the Citi Wang Theatre on September 20, 2011

, Managing Editor

Massachusetts has become a home away from home for Chicago rock band Wilco over the past couple years as they’ve hosted their Solid Sound Festival at the Mass Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams the last two summers, and have now founded their record label, dBpm, in Easthampton. Wilco’s forthcoming album, The Whole Love, is their first to be released through dBpm, and Massachusetts fans were fittingly some of the first to hear the new songs played live, with Wilco filling the Wang Theatre on Tuesday night.

Wilco must have been quite comfortable testing the new material out on their Boston fans, as The Whole Love made up nearly the whole setlist. They kicked things off the same way the soon-to-be released album begins, with the twosome of “Art of Almost” and lead single “I Might”. The former started with a spacey 80’s sound and evolved into a full-fledged rock out halfway through as frontman Jeff Tweedy picked up a guitar to join forces with Nels Cline and Pat Sansone. “I Might” quickly shifted the tone with its cheery “do-do-do” harmonies.

Although the new songs were welcomed with open arms, the band (particularly Tweedy) didn’t seem to loosen up until ten songs in when their leader finally greeted the audience. From there it was all fun and games as Tweedy joked that Cline was going to “catch a venereal disease” from his double-necked guitar, and later announced, “Let’s do this… gonna play the shit out of this encore” when they returned to close out the night. And play the shit out of it they did, casting any ballads aside for an up-tempo finish highlighted by the adored “I’m the Man Who Loves You”. Still, the encore couldn’t compare to their finest performance, “Impossible Germany”, during which Cline thrilled with an extensive solo while Tweedy and Sansone stood together riffing away as well.

They may have left out a couple fan-favorites with all the fresh material, but Wilco certainly didn’t break any hearts. The full spectrum of emotions that appear on The Whole Love, from the forlorn “One Sunday Morning” to the lovingly bright “Dawned On Me”, sounds like it is destined to find a broad audience as Wilco continue to pick up new fans 17 years later.

Wilco’s new ticketing strategy (tickets could only be picked up at Will Call) created long lines outside the theater but it also eliminated scalpers. Fans that got through the line early were treated to a charming set from renowned songwriter Nick Lowe as he performed some of his greatest hits like “Cruel to Be Kind” and “(What So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding”. With an upcoming album of his own set to hit store shelves soon, Lowe also threw in the brand new song “I Read a Lot” to the delight of many fans.

Wilco Setlist
1. Art Of Almost
2. I Might
3. Black Moon
4. I Am Trying to Break Your Heart
5. One Wing
6. Bull Black Nova
7. At Least That’s What You Said
8. One Sunday Morning (Song for Jane Smiley’s Boyfriend)
9. Shouldn’t Be Ashamed
10. Whole Love
11. War On War
12. Born Alone
13. Handshake Drugs
14. Impossible Germany
15. Dawned On Me
16. A Shot in the Arm
Encore

17. The Late Greats
18. I’m The Man Who Loves You
19. Monday
20. Outtasite (Outta Mind)

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