Wilco brings down the 9:30 Club

March 2, 2005, midnight | By Jonah Gold | 15 years, 6 months ago

Marathon of sound transforms noise to greatness

After an uninspiring five-song set from Chicago-based Detholz, the capacity crowd at the 9:30 Club awaited anxiously for the next band, on Feb. 24. Detholz, an evangelical rock group, seemed out of touch with the normal Wilco audience of college students and 50 year old men. They sang "Faith" by Limp Bizkit, a poor choice to play in front of a sold out show of people who had no interest in late nineties rap. Detholz even received a commemorative "You suck!" from the crowd, prompting them to quickly leave the stage.

After a thirty-minute lull of setting up new mikes, the infamous Jeff Tweedy and his ever-changing rotation of band mates came on stage at 10:00 and immediately changed the mood. As Wilco, an experimental rock group, came onstage the main question was how they could make their complex sounds without the help of computers. Wilco, which won a Grammy this year for Best Alternative Music Album, as well as Best Packaging, has steadily ventured into more and more noise, most of which is generated electronically with a mixer. Wilco, however, came together to provide one of their best performances, combining some of their loudest songs with their mellower country ballads of the past.

Wilco guitarist Nels Cline was essential in providing the variety of different songs, showing that any tone is possible with enough pedals and different guitars. Not only was he able to make amazing amounts of distortion and fill the small room with noise, but he was also able to make his guitar sound like a violin on Wilco's largest hit "Jesus, etc." from 2002. Jeff Tweedy also put on a great show. Tweedy, who recently came out from rehab for an addiction to his prescription painkillers, has been known to be very grim on stage, giving an unemotional and ungratifying show. This night however, Tweedy was dancing and jogging in place with a smile on his face. The rest of the band seemed to be perfectly in sync with their front man, as they pounded out song after song from their newest album, "A Ghost Is Born." Tweedy's wavering voice worked perfectly with each song, as the band moved from pounding feedback to acoustic ballads.

The group left abruptly after the 15th song with the crowd wanting more. The fans clapped and clapped for almost five minutes, constantly screaming, until Tweedy humbly came out again with his band. They played four more songs and left again, but the crowd stayed and seemed to be getting louder as time progressed. The band came back again and played three more, bringing the total to 22 songs as they left for the now third time. Yet they came back and continued to play six more songs, most of which were covers of other bands with a Wilco tinge. They added distortion and extra guitar parts, until the songs were not only covers, but partially their own. And so they played, each player getting a retuned guitar after each performance. After every song it seemed that they would be leaving. Tweedy would take off his guitar, but within 30 seconds he would receive another and the crowd would rejoice.

Wilco did not finally leave until they had played 28 songs and been on stage for almost two and a half hours. During this marathon the band rarely spoke to the crowd until the final encore. They seemed to be to engrossed in the music, but as time wore on the band became more comfortable with the packed and rowdy audience.

The first thing that Jeff Tweedy said was, "I would like to publicly denounce the man who said 'you suck' to the Detholz." The crowd paradoxically clapped, as if they supported a band which they had previously barely recognized at all. Tweedy continued saying, "Jesus is not American, and he is not a Republican… and whether you believe in him or not, Jesus was a hippie." The crowd continued to roar with approval as the usually silent Tweedy let loose. Too loose for some as a crowd member said, "Get to the song." Tweedy immediately responded, "We haven't talked all day, so you can go to hell."

It was this attitude that helped to make the performance so entertaining. Tweedy was interacting with the crowd, playing off of emotions, listening to the songs that people loudly sang together. And so as midnight came and went, Wilco kept playing. Whether they played their earlier alt-country recordings or their newest hits, Wilco pleased every crowd member with a show to remember.

The show can be heard on www.npr.org or www.wilcoworld.net<>. The file is only compatible with Real Player.

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