Photos and review: Wilco at the Fillmore Auditorium in Denver - Reverb

Live review: Wilco @ the Fillmore Auditorium

On Thursday night at the Fillmore, Wilco proved that yes, its most recent studio material can stand up against its hallowed back catalog. Indeed, new songs like “Art of Almost, “I Might” and “Dawned On Me” charged forward with ferocity, and could have easily been mistaken for “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” B-sides. However, even if choice cuts from 2011’s “The Whole Love” peppered the 26-song performance, there was a notable absence of the band’s previous two efforts.

Now in its 16th year with its most consistent lineup to date, Wilco no longer needs to prove itself, for better or worse. That’s not to say Tweedy and co. have thrown in the towel in favor of greatest hits victory laps, but they know to give the fans what they want. Thursday’s set stemmed mainly from the aforementioned “YHF” and 1996’s “Being There.” Guitar solos wandered, Tweedy crooned much and bantered little. And that was fine with the largely jacket-around-the-waist-receding-hairling-$9-dollar-beer-crowd. Wilco fans do not shell out $50 on a school night to hear the hits — they go for the nuggets.

Rare versions of “Poor Places,” “Pot Kettle Black” and “She’s A Jar” highlighted the evening — the latter of which saw Tweedy fudge the mouth harp solo, if nothing else, because he never plays it. In lieu of its usual double encores, the band opted for one mega curtain call churning out a whopping eight songs in less than 30 minutes. Fans were given a four leaf clover in the form of a continuous “Red-Eyed and Blue” > “I Got You (At The End of the Century)” > “Outtasite (Outta Mind) > “I’m A Wheel” sprint to end the night, one of the greatest combos I’ve ever heard them play.

However, when leaving the shoulder-to-shoulder Fillmore, I couldn’t help but feel a bit underwhelmed. They played long and hard, like they always do. Nels shredded more than a few solos, like he always does. Glenn Kotche hammered complex patterns and flailed his limbs with each percussive hit, like we’ve seen him do in two documentaries. But Tweedy and the others did not seem fully engaged. Perhaps with instant venue sell-outs and strong vinyl sales, there’s no longer much at stake. Wilco grows less “cult” by the day as its core fans show up with a new wrinkle and bigger beer belly every show.

Is it too early to be nostalgic about Wilco? Maybe, maybe not. For now, many are just thankful that the Chicago sextet is still road-dogging — even if that means we’re all home and fast asleep by midnight.

Set list:

“Poor Places”
“Art Of Almost”
“I Might”
“Misunderstood”
“Side With The Seeds”
“I Am Trying To Break Your Heart”
“One Wing”
“She’s A Jar”
“Impossible Germany”
“Via Chicago”
“Kamera”
“Born Alone”
“Capitol City”
“War On War”
“Box Full Of Letters”
“Pot Kettle Black”
“Dawned On Me”
“A Shot in the Arm”

Encore:

“Whole Love”
“Heavy Metal Drummer”
“Walken”
“I’m The Man Who Loves You”
“Red-Eyed and Blue”
“I Got You (At The End of the Century)”
“Outtasite (Outta Mind)
“I’m A Wheel”

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John Hendrickson is the managing editor of Reverb and a multimedia journalist for The Denver Post. Follow his rants on music and more on Twitter.

Evan Semón is a Denver freelance writer and photographer and regular contributor to Reverb. See more of his work.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=504589144 Jeremy Simon

    Insightful commentary, but a few reactions–as someone who’s seen and reviewed a Wilco show you’ve attended in the past:
    -Wilco has 8 albums and played 26 songs. They’re obviously going to favor the album they’re touring on, so let’s say that leaves 2-3 songs from each of previous albums. I count 4 songs from SBS and Wilco so don’t know if prior 2 albums were notably absent.
    -On the ‘the largely jacket-around-the-waist-receding-hairling-$9-dollar-beer-crowd’…’new wrinkle and bigger beer belly every show’… ‘all home and fast asleep by midnight’ front… Dude, fans (like everyone else) are ALWAYS aging. Like fans of any long-successful band, their average age is rising. And I get that one goal of a review is to portray the scene along with the music. But the fatter, lamer, disconnected-from-the-true-value-of-a-beer portrait risks alienating the very core fans most likely to read closely and appreciate your review. It’s not that damning in any one instance, but it’s not necessary, and drip by drip it works against you in the longer term. I think one thing that unites many Wilco fans is their disdain for such pigeonholing… this is why the “One Warner unit dumping them for not having a ‘single,’ then another Warner unit discovering them for being so out-of-the-box” thing is such a key element of the Wilco legend.
    Again, nice writeup, but a couple points I didn’t want to let pass…

    • http://www.facebook.com/LewisCalvertCooper Lewis Cooper

      Jeremy

      I couldn’t agree more, hell in 2 years Wilco will have been around for 20 years, anyone who loved unique great music has loved Wilco form day one, so for me, I was 32 when Wilco hit the road, I loved them then and I love them now. Alas I have let my belt out a notch from 32 to 33, my hair is now grey, and yes I can’t stay up all night anymore, nor do I want to, been there done that, but I do still love great music. With time everyone “gets” this, its only when you are still going to live forever (less than 30) does the age of the fans concern you. Great photos Evan. Thanks for the detailed review John. Keep the Whole Love… LCC

    • denverEvan

      Jeremy Simon drinks $9 beer. 

  • Kdennis57

    My fourth Wilco show, and easily the best. Wilco is a well-oiled machine these days, and they were firing on all cylinders last night. First time I ever heard them play Box Full Of Letters from their debut album, and it was a stinging guitar-slingfest.

    Feeling a little underwhelmed? That says more about the reviewer than the band. It’s true, Wilco is not a cult band anymore, and it was definitely date night at the Fillmore – couples everywhere. Cult bands don’t draw couples hugging, dancing, singing along (although their best songs are pretty depressing). Wilco’s ability to meld pop songcraft/killer guitar runs/the occasional discordant noise-rock interlude makes them a left-of-mainstream band these days. And that’s okay – they aren’t gods, just humans playing music, and the more folks that appreciate them, the better.

    I’ve been following Neil Young in concert since the 1970s – don’t talk to me about feeling “nostalgic” for Wilco’s cutting edge days. They are just getting started.Wilco is a band that appears to be in the game for the long haul. It could well be that Tweedy & Company’s best efforts are yet to come. 

    • Dhawk597

      Well-said, Kdennis!  Also, it was pretty cool to see Gov. Hickenlooper on the floor.

  • Peter Schwartz

    Sounds like you are more interested in peoples hair/waist lines than anything else.  Odd.

  • Chris

    So you think 3 songs from Sky Blue Sky makes the album “a notable absence.”  Then you say the “set stemmed mainly from”  Being There which had all of 4 songs played.  Seriously?

    And why would you criticize the crowd for the price of a beer? (If they didn’t drink it, you’d probably criticize them for not being able to handle a beer on a school night.)