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Wilco - at the Barrowlands, Glasgow: Live Review

I approached this gig as an opportunity to answer a question. "Was the rock and roll band I'd first heard on "Being There" still hidden under the art rock layers and sometime blandness of more recent years?" The story of their transition from aspiring Americana torchbearers to alternative darlings has been told many times elsewhere. Whilst I wouldn't put "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" and "A Ghost Is Born" in my top three Wilco albums, ("Being There", "Summerteeth" and "Sky Blue Sky" are all better, if admittedly not as important), it has been a while since they've made what I consider to be an essential album. 

Also being the first time seeing them, and being aware of Jeff Tweedy's sometimes prickly reputation, I was very much in a "show me" state of mind, only enhanced by the the support band who I found to be extremely disappointing.

I was not an especially auspicious start and for the first four songs, from forthcoming new album opener, "Bright Leaves" to "Kamera" I felt that I was watching a rehearsal or soundcheck. The energy was low, and it felt like every song started with Tweedy playing some mid-tempo chords on his acoustic guitar, (this was also the case too often throughout the gig as well I feel). A waste given the musical talent on stage it seemed. 

My need for something to happen though was granted during "Handshake Drugs". The band clicked into sync, went up through the gears and we responded in the audience. From there it continued to build. A personal treat for me was the double whammy of back-to-back "Summerteeth" numbers "Via Chicago" and "How To Fight Loneliness".

The centrepiece of the show, however, was another personal favourite, "Impossible Germany" with an extended and wonderfully excoriating guitar solo from Nels Cline. The crowd loved it, faces were melted and it proved a launchpad for a more upbeat second half.

In that second half, Jeff Tweedy was pretty chatty and seemed genuinely happy, and after the low key start the show maintained the energy and drive until the end and the three song encore. Tellingly for me, and this has no doubt influenced my positive review, is that three of the last four songs were from "Being There". 

After twenty six songs, my only regrets were that there was no "Passenger Side" or "The Lonely 1", and though I still long for them to roll back the years and go full Americana one more time it was reassuring to have my opening question answered in the positive.

"Just smile all the time........"



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