Wilco appeared at The Moody Theater at ACL Live on consecutive nights this week. Wednesday evening was an Austin City Limits TV taping. Lead singer, Jeff Tweedy mentioned it was the band’s fourth appearance on the show. The alternative rock band from Chicago followed up an elegant performance in front of the TV cameras with a rocking, sold-out ACL Live show last night that appropriately included a number of songs from “Summerteenth” (1999) an album primarily recorded at Willie Nelson’s Spicewood Studios near Austin.
While Wilco has recorded three previous ACL TV tapings, Tweedy and the band appeared slightly nervous with the cameras swinging around in front of them as the band opened with new song, “One Sunday Morning” off the Grammy nominated, “The Whole Love” which was released September 27. The 12-minute song featuring Tweedy gently singing into the microphone while gently strumming his acoustic with the band slowly joining in was a nice ramp up to the crowd pleasing, “Art of Almost” that showed off lead guitarist, Nels Cline’s chops with an intense, almost psychedelic solo.
Other set list highlights included, “Shouldn’t Be Ashamed“, “Jesus, Etc“, “Impossible Germany” and a surprise encore with Englishman, Nick Lowe, best known for his 1979 hit, “Cruel To Be Kind” which Wilco backed up the singer on an upbeat version of the song that left the television audience a bit giddy, smiling as they left the theater.
Tweedy mentioned that several of the songs included in the set list “had never been on television before”. The fact that Wilco had taped prior shows and the release of the new album last month influenced the song selection. The Grammy nominee announcements were made Wednesday evening as Wilco was preparing for the taping which is a strange coincidence when you consider the their ACL TV episode will air 8 days before the Grammy winners are announced on February 12.
During the night two show yesterday, Tweedy joked that “We’ll probably lose to the Foo Fighters again.” after telling the crowd the new album had been nominated for music’s most prestigious award. Wilco’s bandleader appeared less self-conscious without the cameras in front of him. Actually, the entire band looked more relaxed. The pressure of producing a great television appearance was off. The mood on stage and in the audience was less formal and more playful than the taping.
ACL TV set list (courtesy of Setlist.fm):
Art of Almost
I Am Trying to Break Your Heart
Bull Black Nova
Shouldn’t Be Ashamed
Capital City Skyline
War On War
Far, Far Away
The Late Greats
Heavy Metal Drummer
Cruel To Be Kind
(with Nick Lowe)
Wilco had the advantage of Nick Lowe playing an entire opening set to warm up the ACL Live crowd. Lowe will continue to tour with the band while they continue on the second leg of this year’s tour.
They led off the set with “Reservations” from the wildly successful album, “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” and went right into “Art of Almost” which grabbed the crowd’s attention in much the same way as it did the previous night, indicating Thursday’s show would feature more up tempo songs than the taping. We loved “Misunderstood“, “Pot Kettle Black” “Impossible Germany” (we cannot get enough of Nels on this song), “Outtasite (Outta Mind)” and Nick Lowe singing CTBK once more, but this time with some nice visuals on the rag-like backdrop.
ACL Live set list (courtesy of Setlist.fm):
Art of Almost
Muzzle of Bees
Box Full Of Letters
Pot Kettle Black
Rising Red Lung
She’s A Jar
Dawned On Me
I’m Always In Love
Red-Eyed and Blue
I Got You (At the End of the Century)
Outtasite (Outta Mind)
Heavy Metal Drummer
I’m the Man Who Loves You
I’m a Wheel
Cruel to Be Kind
Is it fair to compare the taping to the ACL Live gig? Maybe. Both shows were at the same venue, but the goal of each was entirely different, thus the performances were similar but each had their own, admirable goals met.
On February 4, 2012 when PBS airs Austin City Limits audiences around the country will see a tight, talented band from Chicago deliver a performance that reflects the identity Wilco has forged since forming in 1994. It is one that includes a begrudging but ultimately maturing Jeff Tweedy leading what may be the best group of touring Southern Rockers through a cross-section of the band’s work.
Wilco sounds more like the Allman Brothers than Waylon Jennings to most fans, which is why Nels Cline was able to convince the Allman’s to lone him Duane’s ’57 gold-topped Les Paul guitar for this tour. Cline dutifully paid homage to the guitar great, delivering some spell-binding solos both nights. On TV, fans will see Wilco is just as adept playing Woodie Guthrie-inspired tunes that are sourced from traditional Americana music.
Either Way, Wilco is a deserving Grammy nominee.
Special Thanks to April Burcham, Leslie Nichols and Keitha Spears.
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