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Wilco at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, 6/22/12 (photos and review)

Wilco opened its weekend stand at Red Rocks Amphitheatre on Friday night with a an elongated and frustratingly static version of “One Sunday Morning (Song For Jane Smiley’s Boyfriend).” The song, a fitting album closer to 2011’s “The Whole Love,” set a lifeless tone for what began as one of the most dispassionate Wilco performances in memory.

Luckily, the set turned around, though not before the 12th song of the 24 total played Friday night. Indeed, Jeff Tweedy and Co. appeared lifeless through the first half of the show, trudging through forgettable newer songs like “Born Alone” and a half-speed acoustic version of “Spiders (Kidsmoke)” that effectively turned one of the most rousing works in Wilco’s extensive catalog into a perpetually plateaued sleeper.

 

The band found its groove mid-set with a four song sprint that began with twangy rocker “I Might Be High” from 1995’s “A.M.” Lively takes on “I’m Always In Love,” “Heavy Metal Drummer” and “I’m The Man Who Loves You” followed — juxtaposing the strength of these canonical Wilco numbers with the weakness of the late-era output.

The conventional double encore featured a few memorable nuggets: “Remember The Mountain Bed,” “Theologians” and a rarely-seen “Monday.” Tweedy invited openers Punch Brothers out to pick and jam on “California Stars,” and while the string band added beautiful accompaniment, mandolin maestro Chris Thile and his jacket-and-tie partners seemed to soften what’s already a bedtime lullaby of a song.

Compared with Saturday’s brilliance, Friday night felt more like Tweedy and his five teammates had just arrived at Spring Training — enjoying the warm weather, shaking the dust off and saving some energy for tomorrow’s game.

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John Hendrickson is the managing editor of Reverb and a multimedia journalist at The Denver Post. Follow him on Twitter, if that’s what you’re into.

Glenn Ross is a Denver-based photographer and regular contributor to Reverb. See more of his work here.