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Concert Reviews:
Wilco Plays One For The Ages In Royal Oak

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Wednesday, July 22, 2009

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ROYAL OAK -- With the distinction of having one of the most in-demand tickets in town this summer, Wilco delivered a big show in a small place on Tuesday night (July 21) at the Royal Oak Music Theatre.

Considering it sold out the Fox Theatre last time through town, Wilco's draw is considerably more potent than the Royal Oak's 1,700 capacity. The show was a near-immediate sell-out, and scalper markups were exponential.

The Chicago-based sextet made it well worth any price of admission, however, rocking through a powerful two-hour and 40-minute marathon whose 30 songs spanned Wilco's 15-year career while still doing its job of promoting the group's latest release, "Wilco (The Album)."

"Wilco (The Song)," in fact, opened the night on a light note that quickly turned heavy with an aggressive take on the new album's "Bull Black Nova" and the textural builds of "You Are My Face" and "Trying to Break Your Heart." The latter in particular made it clear early on that Wilco came to play -- hard -- by basically sublimating the delicate prettiness in the early part of the song under layers of feedback and John Stirratt's insistent bass line.

The rest of the long night was simply a delight for any Wilco fan, from the cascading melodies of "A Shot in the Arm" to the gritty chug of "Handshake Drugs," the mellow soul of "Deeper Down," "Jesus Etc." and "In a Future Age" to the dynamic drama of "I Hate it Here," the compact rock blasts of "One Wing" and "Sonny Feeling" to the lengthy opuses "Impossible Germany," "I Got You" and "Spiders (Kidsmoke)." The group gave "Wilco (The Album)" is props, playing seven of the set's 11 tracks, but it also dug deep into its catalog for gems such as "Magazine Called Sunset"from the 2003 "More Like the Moon" digital EP.

Frontman Jeff Tweedy, meanwhile, added the proceedings with his drolly engaging stage patter. Give him credit for remembering that it's been seven years -- nearly to the day, he noted -- since Wilco last played the Royal Oak. He admonished a would-be stage-diver ("Nobody caught you the first time," he noted), cheerfully chided those not clapping along at certain points and, after taking a sign proferred fans who had been looking to but a ticket outside, asked how much they paid. "Just out of curiosity," Tweedy assured them.

But Tweedy and Stirratt also carefully chose a quartet of female fans pressed against the front of the stage to sing "California Stars" (they knew every word). And he did seem genuinely touched by the Royal Oak crowd's response throughout the night; "You guys or so cute," Tweedy said at one point. "It's like we got the old crowd back together."

Old or new, anyone lucky enough to get in got to see a show for the ages.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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