We Totally Had Our Hearts Broken
Believe it or not, these folks were not the oldest farts at the Wilco concert on Wednesday night. Not by a long shot. I have never seen such a wide range of ages at a concert that wasn't the folk festival, nor have I ever seen so many people packed into Mac Hall. And I have been to approximately 237,588 concerts there. Calgary obviously loves Wilco. This town is still buzzing about the concert days later.
Jeff Tweedy was barely recognisable, chanelling a Sam Roberts persona complete with a shaggy mane and beard, which looked so very odd on his perpetually adolescent face. He also sported a leg cast necessitated by a stress fracture from too much jogging, a further indication that he really is a changed man. He informed us that his wife wanted him to let us know that he is a dumb-ass.
But despite the good natured kibitsing, the newly health-conscious and cleaned up Jeff Tweedy has lost none of his heartbreakingly beautiful edge on his songs. Opening with Jerry's favourite, Handshake Drugs, Wilco launched into a tight experimental set, drawing heavily from my favourite album, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.
There were many defining moments in the performance - the call and response song in which the audience happily participated, the sharply punctuated highlights of Misunderstood, the exuberance of Heavy Metal Drummer, the mesmerizing draw of Spiders (Kidsmoke) ... far too many moments to name, frankly.
With the packed sold-out house, I couldn't see a damn thing, but it was worth it regardless. I was naively hopeful at first, as the space in front of me starting filling up with short people just prior to the start of Wilco's set, but naturally at the final second, four 9.5 foot guys swooped in and parked directly in front of me. And then a couple of loud mouthed drunk dudes squeezed in almost on top of me and proceeded to tell each other loudly about their new cell phones. By the third song I had enough.
Now Wilco is a pretty loud band, but this was a quiet song so I let loose with a "hey, shut up!" and the one dude turned around and demanded "what did you say?" So I responded "I said 'shut up!'" And then realising I might be getting in over my head, did some back-scrambling by lamely adding "please". What a chicken shit I am! They did shut up though, although buddy did turn to me later with a "you wanna be quiet on your wooting and clapping, we can't hear anything". I took this as a lame attempt at humour and a peace offering and just gave him my patented punk sneer. And then we were all good.
Meanwhile, little did I realise that Jerry was sweating that he might have to fight, not just these two drunk guys, but also their two friends nearby, who were really big and buff. I told him he could have just pretended not to know me.
I think that Wilco knew that they were loved and appreciated by the crowd. We got two solid encores, not bad from a guy with a broken leg (who did the Hummingbird dance, by the way. Badly). And to all those people who left after the first encore ... nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah! You are losers!
Actually the second encore was probably my favourite part, because with a quarter of the audience gone, I could actually see something.
Oh, and guess who opened? Elliott Brood! If you were a regular listener to the National Playlist on CBC Radio earlier this year, you will remember their song The Bridge being on the list for quite some time.
This roots rock trio from Windsor, ON, were a perfect matchup for Wilco, I thought. If you like to listen to a little death country every now and then (and really, who doesn't?) you'd probably like Elliott Brood.
Here's a little taste of what we heard - Misunderstood - Wilco and The Bridge - Elliott Brood. Just close your eyes and picture the guy in the leg cast dancing.
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