June 25, 2024

Wilco played The Beacon Theatre (Night 3)

Wilco wrapped-up their three night stint at the Beacon Theatre with exquisite jams and their everlasting splendor.

This weekend marked the twentieth anniversary of Wilco's fifth record, A Ghost is Born, and despite that release getting the most hits on Monday's set list, this string of shows was not actually in celebration of that album. Still, seeing the band during the this time felt a bit special and the fact that Hulu's The Bear happens to return for season three this week (not to mention the themed shirt available at the merch stand) also added to the magic in the air. While the band itself has hit the three decade mark, the majority of its members joined in the past twenty years, missing the creation of the band's early triumphs that still make up a large portion of each show, but help bring them to life with such passion and vigor, you'd believe they were in the room when the mic was recording. In the years of their existence, the band has fluctuated between mostly good records to a defining album of a decade and generation, graduating from alt-country troubadours to dad rock icons while still remaining unwaveringly consistent. Perhaps they've never reached the heights of their masterpiece Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, but you can practically be guaranteed that each Wilco album will have a standout track that will shine as one of the year's best. Building that kind of status over time and maintaining it is no easy feat and yet somehow Wilco has also successfully bridged the gap between the mainstream and alternative worlds while remaining true to their sound all along the way. It's easy enough to always put on a Wilco song and assume those into popular music will love it as their "indie favorite" and those who generally think they're more advance will always come around to the pleasant satisfaction that comes with listening to a Wilco record. Known for their immense time in the studio working through endless sonic details was an early know fact about the band as they labored over the process, but I often wonder if their overlooked as a live band, especially at this prime time in their career as the utmost seasoned professional who churn out incredible performances night after night. On this particular event, they opened with a heartfelt and earth-shattering "Via Chicago" that highlighted the band's stellar ability to marry breezy acoustics with eruptions of distorted noise as it got the crowd to their feet, a place they'd remain for the entirety of the night. Forever at the helm, Jeff Tweedy has led Wilco since inception and yet no matter how many times I listen to their music (and Last.fm tells me it's a lot), I often am struck by his brilliant lyrics in utterly profound ways, like they've never passed through my ears despite my numerous listens. Tonight, it was "Infinite Surprise," an unsuspecting track from last year's rather good Cousin, that rocked me. As Tweedy sang "It's good to be alive / it's good to know we die" the words hit me with their simplicity, but also the reminder that this isn't forever and to recognize the special moments that make us feel alive as they happen. That's something a Wilco show can unlike almost any other. With such a vast and rewarding discography, shows have become greatest hits affairs and this night was no exception, taking in everything from a rousing "Handshake Drugs" to a haunting "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart" and a blazing "Misunderstood" to a stunning "Hummingbird." To be able to witness "Impossible Germany" live is always an amazing experience and Nels Cline really let it rip on this occasion, so much so that Tweedy went over for an embrace once the track ended. Giving us a one-two punch of "Jesus, Etc." and "Heavy Metal Drummer" was a real joy and allowed the band to really cook, their momentum flowing at the highest level, as they let the music explode in euphoric bursts of mesmerizing melodies. "Ashes of American Flags" eased into the encore before the epic "Spiders (Kidsmoke)" was unleashed in all its glory, the band proving they still had plenty left in the tank, but were certain to make this one count. "It's Monday night! We gotta do it!" Tweedy shouted before proceeding to do a Bay City Rollers style chant to get the crowd pumped and for one final number, the clear choice of "Monday" from Being There, the band let loose and rocked out with full power, leaving nothing behind and giving the final nail into their plaque as one of the greatest of their generation and to ever do it in general.

Set list:

01 "Via Chicago"
02 "Infinite Surprise"
03 " Handshake Drugs"
04 "At Least That's What You Said"
05 "I Am My Mother"
06 "Cruel Country"
07 "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart"
08 "Meant to Be"
09 "Muzzle of Bees"
10 "You and I"
11 "I'm Always in Love"
12 "Misunderstood"
13 "Forget the Flowers"
14 "Bird Without a Tail / Base of My Skull"
15 "Hummingbird"
16 "Evicted"
17 "Impossible Germany"
18 "Jesus, Etc."
19 "Heavy Metal Drummer"
20 "A Shot in the Arm"
21 "Ashes of American Flags"
22 "Spiders (Kidsmoke)"
23 "Monday"

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