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TWO JEWS CHEW ON
THE GRAMMYS
Pass me a knish. (5/24a)
SONY STARS SET
HITS LIST ABLAZE
They're fire. (5/24a)
THE IVORS 2019: ALL THE WINNERS
Theresa May wasn't even on the shortlist. (5/24a)
CROSSCURRENTS: HITSVILLE USA
A Berry important chapter of the story (5/24a)
SONG REVENUE CHART: PLAYOFF FEVER
We're in a generational moment. (5/24a)
THE DIVA PLAN
How pop stars from the pre-streaming era are finding a new groove.
RAINMAKERS RETURN
More of the folks who are making biz history now.
THE FUTURE OF ROCK & ROLL IS...
Hang on, we just need to throw this TV out the window.
AFTER COUNTRY TRAP
Is reggaeton death metal far behind?
Critics' Choice
MAGNETIZED: WILCO AT THE GREEK
8/7/15

By Bud Scoppa

Ten songs and 40 minutes into Wilco’s two-hour set Wednesday night at the Greek, Jeff Tweedy uttered his first words to the crowd. “That’s our new album Star Wars,” he pointed out, unnecessarily. “If you want it, you can have it. If you don’t want it, what are you doing here?”

It’s unlikely that more than a handful of those in the 6,000-strong sellout crowd hadn’t immediately taken up the band on its startling offer of a free download of its brand-new ninth album when it appeared on WilcoWorld.net three weeks ago (it’ll be available there and on iTunes for another few days).

Not many bands could get away with starting a show by rolling the entirety of a newly released album, but for the best band in the land (apart from the enduringly masterful Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers), this wasn’t a ballsy move, it was a thoughtful gift to the assembled multitude. And for my money, it was the highlight of the performance, as these six perfectly attuned virtuosos tore into the newly minted material with a mind-blowing mixture of precision and abandon. The new stuff exploded live, especially the stunningly intense rockers “Pickled Ginger” and “Random Name Generator,” as well as the gorgeous Beatlesque album closer “Magnetized.”

That’s not discounting the meat of the show, which was crammed with crowd-pleasers, or the unexpected acoustic encore. Showstoppers included a scalding “Art of Almost” from the previous LP, 2012’s The Whole Love, an ecstatic “Heavy Metal Drummer” (one of six selections from the 2002 landmark Yankee Hotel Foxtrot), which rode out thrillingly behind Byrds-like harmonies, and of course “Impossible Germany,” the extended three-guitar symphony that is the sublime high point of the band’s 2007 opus, Sky Blue Sky—and the peak moment of every Wilco show I’ve witnessed since then—with Tweedy and the versatile Pat Sansone playing Allman-like harmony lines while the alarmingly gifted Nels Cline dances around them like a punk Nureyev.

The oldest bandmember at 59, Cline is to Wilco as Jonny Greenwood is to Radiohead—co-star, focal point and lightning rod. And drummer Glen Kotche was, as always, a force of nature, soaked to the skin, his hair flattened against his skull, sweat flying off him, grinning like he was exactly where he wanted to be in the universe. It’s always a joy to watch these two dynamos.

To say the crowd lapped it up would be a gross understatement. When Tweedy started singing “Hummingbird,” a lovely, low-keyed number from 2005’s A Ghost Is Born, he was spontaneously joined by a massive, distinctly female chorale rising up from all parts of the amphitheater, deftly navigating the tricky melody and lyrics: “Remember to remember me/Standing still in your past/Floating fast like a hummingbird.”  

I don't think Wilco's ever been better than they are right now. This band is in an exciting place fully 20 years into its existence, the last 11 with the superb current lineup. It's been a great ride, and believe it or not, it's actually accelerating.

Setlist, Greek Theatre, 8/5/15

Star Wars:

More…
Random Name Generator
The Joke Explained
You Satellite
Taste the Ceiling
Pickled Ginger
Where Do I Begin
Cold Slope
King of You
Magnetized

Main set:

Handshake Drugs
Kamera
I Am Trying to Break Your Heart
Art of Almost
Heavy Metal Drummer
I’m the Man Who Loves You
Hummingbird
Jesus, Etc.
Born Alone
Via Chicago
Impossible Germany
Dawned on Me

Acoustic encore:

Misunderstood
It’s Just That Simple
War on War
We’ve Been Had (Uncle Tupelo)
California Stars  

Photo by Debi Del Grande. Check out the whole batch, as well as her review of the show, at LA Record