Wilco delivers major league performance

A review of Wilco, Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band at Lelacheur Park on July 11, 2009

, Managing Editor

Riding high on the success of their latest album, Wilco (The Album), the band’s highest charting album yet, Wilco stopped in Lowell on Saturday for their tour of minor league ballparks but put on a major league performance, a performance that was unfortunately cut short due to yet another rainstorm.

Playing an outdoor show at Lelacheur Park, home of the Red Sox minor league affiliate Lowell Spinners, the show had an unexpectedly relaxed atmosphere. Some more lively fans packed into the outfield for a closer view of the band but the rest of the crowd remained in their seats throughout the night. Perhaps the fact that the entire show was general admission drew fans in early from the parking lots and local watering holes to stake out a position hindering the fans from getting loose with some liquid encouragement. Nevertheless, the anticipation was surely felt as Wilco finally took the stage after what felt like an eternity of a stage changeover.

After anxiously waiting, spirits were immediately lifted as the lights went out and the theme to “The Price Is Right” blasted from the speakers as the band took the stage. The Chicago rockers started things off with “Wilco (The Song)” from their latest effort and would provide a good mix of new tracks with songs off several of their past albums.

After guitarist Nels Cline ripped a squealy solo during “At Least That’s What You Said” he displayed some fancy fretwork again, proving he knows his scales as his fingers ran up and down his frets on new track “Bull Black Nova”. Before “Handshake Drugs” frontman Jeff Tweedy tried to get the people way back in the stands into it by acknowledging them, which they responded by pounding on the bleachers making a loud rumbling sound which humorously confused Tweedy who wondered what the sound was. Tweedy got a few laughs himself before playing “Jesus, Etc.” when he took advantage of the setting and the echo to imitate Lou Gehrig’s “luckiest man on the face of the earth” farewell speech which was both funny yet uncomfortably inappropriate.

The catchy new “Sonny Feeling” preceded the older track “Nothing’severgonnastandinmyway(again)” which Tweedy introduced by saying “We’re gonna play an older song… at least twelve to fifteen of you will be excited”. His comment was of course sarcastic as the crowd was delighted to be treated to the old tune. “Impossible Germany” was the high point of the night even though it was played right around the time it started to rain. The light show was finally put to good use on the track as several sets of lights strobe at different tempos to create a fun effect while the band rocked out an extended version of the song that had the fans clapping along.

It looked as if the rain would hold off as only a few drops here and there were falling but a huge downpour accompanied by a flash of lightning during “Hummingbird” had most fans headed for the exits. Yet, Wilco still managed to come out for an encore as they made a valiant effort with “I’m the Man Who Loves You” before calling the show early. Although the night ended prematurely and the fans got soaked things could have been worse. On the plus side it didn’t rain until an hour and a half of great music was already enjoyed.

Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band opened the show with a solid set of their own. However it was clear that the crowd wasn’t there to see them as the stands were mostly empty and the beer lines were long. Oberst’s music is rich with stories but unfortunately those in attendance weren’t all that interested in his musical tales.

Oberst’s new stuff is much catchier than his work with Bright Eyes, which he neglected to play, instead picking songs off his last couple of albums including his newest work, Outer South. The set featured a steady balance of slow and up-tempo songs. He was at his most rocking during “I Don’t Want To Die (In The Hospital)” just before he was most gentle during “Lenders in the Temple”. Always a quirky fellow, after “Lenders” Oberst quietly departed with a little wave and a “thank you”.

Leave a Reply