Wilco will love you baby

Last night was a great night for a concert. Low humidity and a cool temperature in July is always something to be thankful for, especially when you’re spending an evening at Wolf Trap. It was our evening for the Encore Circle Lounge, so we headed in and sat down. As we’ve done in the past, they have enough appetizers you can make a meal, so we did – Jill liked the Roasted Corn Salad with Cherry Tomatoes, Avocado and Cilantro, while I really enjoyed the Basil Chile Lime Marinated Watermelon salad with feta cheese and arugula (for the first I can remember everything served was vegetarian.

First up was Conor Oberst with his Mystic Valley Band. He’s had some popularity with his group Bright Eyes, but I’ve never really felt the pull of their music. I bought his new CD and listened to it in preparation for the show. They were decent at first, until it came time for someone else in the band to sing lead. This didn’t sit well, as Oberst felt the need to be in the spotlight and walked around on his knees while playing. We didn’t stick around for the end of their set, headed back to the lounge.

I’ve liked Wilco since they began, though at first I preferred Son Volt, the other band to form from the ashes of Uncle Tupelo (“Drown” is just a great song). But after they both released their second albums I switched my allegiance to Wilco because Being There was an instant classic. Wilco (and the other groups) were initially in the alt-country genre, but added more effects and improvisation over the years (think Sonic Youth). I saw them twice in the ’90s, last in 2003 after Yankee Hotel Foxtrot came out. I didn’t like that album as much, and what I’ve heard from the other two since then hadn’t made me curious to buy one, but their recent self titled release was being hailed as a return to form. Their performance of the title track on the Colbert Report was fun, so when tix were announced for a Wolf Trap show, I pounced.

The show sold out soon after it was announced, so I knew it would be packed. Also, everyone stood for the whole show, a rarity there. But they started off strong with “Wilco” and kept going. The recent songs weren’t as abrasive to me live, although I’m not a huge fan of what guitarist and noisemaker Nels Cline brings to the band. The mix of newer and older songs was pretty good, and it’s hard for any band to play a bad show when the crowd receives them as loudly as the packed house did last night. We left early (as usual on the weeknight shows), but from what I did see, Wilco put on an excellent show for an adoring crowd.


In a related note, the Jayhawks (singer Gary Louris plays with Wilco mainman Jeff Tweedy in Golden Smog) have released a new collection with both single and double disc versions, though if you’re a completist like me you need to pick up the deluxe one from Best Buy which comes with a bonus EP of unreleased songs (and there are another 5 unreleased mp3s at amazon.com).