Notes from Wilco @ Pikes Peak Center, Colorado Springs, 5/8/08
I was worried about you guys. Your latest album, Sky Blue Sky, was nothing short of a letdown for me. After the greatness of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and the slightly less impressive but still memorable A Ghost Is Born, you decided to play it safe. Too many easy rockers, too many by-the-book songs. Nothing inventive or abstract. And to top it all off, you got what I like to call "noodley"! How could you?! Many of your guitar solos (provided by new member Nels Cline) reminded me of the kind of terrible & soulless white-boy blues riffs often relied upon by subpar jam bands. Needless to say, I was distraught about your direction going into your performance at the Pikes Peak Center earlier this month.
I had seen you live once prior, in London during your supporting tour of A Ghost is Born. It was a great performance. The abstract, lingering songs from that album sounded terrific live, even from the balcony. You made my friend cry out of sheer joy. After a disappointing album whose songs don't lend themselves to extended live performances, how could you match that show and experience?
At first, you came nowhere close. Opening songs "Either Way" and "You Are my Face" (both from Sky Blue Sky) only confirmed my worst fears. Boring, stodgy and noddley. Thankfully, you broke into "Sunken Treasure", bringing back some country flavor from the Being There album. In retrospect, it was pretty much all uphill from that point on. As songs from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost is Born worked their way into the set, I got more and more excited. I started taping my foot, singing along, and most importantly, smiling. It wasn't quite like seeing you a couple of years ago, but your performance became moving and memorable just the same.
At times I loved Nels Cline's guitar playing for the obviously & immensely talented musician he is, but perhaps more often (and especially at the beginning of the set) I was annoyed by his playing. Much as described above, I thought his solos were obvious and a gross detour from what made your previous work so great. On the other hand, Tweedy's limited solos brought me back to those days when Wilco was progressive and not regressive. Tweedy's stage banter was engaging and humorous, and served to loosen up a somewhat stoic crowd. He opined that both this show's and the previous night's (in Grand Junction, CO) crowds were mostly from out of town (which was met with a roar). He also bragged that Colorado Springs has a higher mountain than Grand Junction, making it a superior location. Perhaps the star of your live performance was drummer Glenn Kotche, who is easily the most talented drummer I have ever seen live. He is a joy to watch, especially for an aspiring drumbeater like myself.
In the end, I am still a fan of Wilco, Probably more so than I was before your performance. Your older songs still rang true an got my heart racing, even if the set did drag on through 2 encores (lacking of hits) and lasted over 2 1/2 hours. I sincerely hope Sky Blue Sky was brief detour for the band rather than a new direction.
Show Set List
Wilco Official Site
KBUT Music Director Chad's thoughts on Wilco in Grand Junction 5/7/08(scroll down to "LIVE MUSIC REVIEW!!!)
Pitchfork's review of Sky Blue Sky
Pitchfork's review of A Ghost is Born
Pitchfork's review of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot