Wilco at Keyspan Park (The Live Review)
Wilco/Yo La Tengo
13 July 2009
Things Wilco are not (the American Radiohead; uncute). Things Wilco are (strummable; a great band to sing along to on a breezy eve on Coney Island, where they played last night in centerfield of KeySpan Park). Steeplechase attractions once existing on approximate site of centerfield stage (race course, airship tower).
Ways in which Wilco are dependable and awesome (a stately two-hour-plus set drawn from a well-plumbed catalogue; golden harmonies; a constant folk-pop pulse with a deep reverence for tradition anchoring noise jams led by Nels Cline). Ways in which Wilco are frustrating (calculated cuddliness like the way Jeff Tweedy's sings "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart," pausing to let the crowd answer "hello" in the fourth verse; how the band raises their tambourines in unison to begin "I'm the Man Who Loves You"; the contant mugging, etc.).
photo by Harry Shuldman
Acts Wilco are normally more interesting than (Grizzly Bear, Feist). Wilco songs which, with aforementioned acts sitting in during the encore, turn into something like three-chord "Knockin' on Heaven's Door"/too-many-tambourines superjams ("California Stars"). Reasons "California Stars" should have had more gravity than it did (lyrics sung blocks from the home of their writer, Woody Guthrie; music by a former bandmember who recently died). Wilco songs that, with opening act Yo La Tengo joining, become delightful 13-minute silvery motorik clusterfucks ("Spiders (Kidsmoke)").
photo by Harry Shuldman
Reasons to worry that Wilco has crossed some lines (the infectious self-referentiality, like the show-opening "Wilco (The Song);" all the banter about banter). Reasons to forget about these lines (your bros/gf are at the gig; people are into it, partying mildly; and the plodding new stuff--mostly forgettable, besides the post-"Spiders" "Bull Black Nova"--is slipped in among real, well-executed classics).
Other contributions to the night's memories (the Parachute Drop bouncing warm red LED lights to the sky like an alien beacon-flower; an hour-long Yo La Tengo opening set which, despite a deficiency in Georgia Hubley-sung numbers, includes two tunes from the forthcoming Popular Songs, as well as appropriately stadiumy distortion-sheet excursions like "We're An American Band," and a 15-minute "Story of Yo La Tango"). The number of stars one could see over the ballfield (not enough).
photo by Jesse Jarnow