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Wilco at Red Rocks Amphitheatre (photos, review)

Even after 20 years and obtaining the status as a veteran band, Wilco can still find some humility in screwing up one of their most iconic songs. Twelve songs into a perfect set at Red Rocks Amphitheatre on Tuesday, Wilco front man Jeff Tweedy tapped the volume pedal on his guitar to the “off” position and threw himself for a loop.

 

“I feel as if you all deserve an explanation,” said Tweedy after flubbing up the third verse of the song “Jesus, Etc.” (“Yankee Hotel Foxtrot,” 2002). “I ****ed up. I’m not a professional. We’ve been doing
this for 20 years, give me another ten!”

Truth is, Wilco has never sounded better. At this point even the mistakes seem calculated. With Wilco, the only thing better for a fan than growing up with the band, is growing old with the band.

Tweedy has actually become a singer. His voice has nearly full of range and his guitar playing has graduated past merely keeping rhythm to unquestionable leadership.

Evidence of this was when the band played back-to-back songs off the 20-year-old album “A.M.” This was less noticeable on “Passenger Side” but certainly distinctive on “Box Full of Letters.” Tweedy’s voice carried these songs in a higher octave than originally recorded on the album.

With vocals accounted for, bassist John Stirratt thumped out bass lines fresher than the recordings ever gave him credit for.

Enter Nels Cline.

The best thing Wilco ever did for their live show is bring in sage guitarist Nels Cline.

Cline is the game changer that gives Wilco the “bite” they need to keep a steady excitement on tour.

Cline’s syncopated fingering on a song like “Impossible Germany” (“Sky Blue Sky,” 2007) and even on songs he wasn’t a part of in the studio, “Heavy Metal Drummer” (“Yankee Hotel Foxtrot,” 2002) and “I’m the Man who Loves You” (“Yankee Hotel Foxtrot,” 2002), solidify him as a cornerstone that all future Wilco music should be built on.

Tweedy even brought up the infamous stench at Red Rocks … kind of.

“It smells like you have combined weed and pizza. It smells like WEED PIZZA in here,” Tweedy laughed.

Outside of the band’s 20th anniversary, Tuesday marked the 103rd birthday of deceased folk musician Woody Guthrie.

Without mentioning Guthrie’s name, Tweedy said, “He (Guthrie) said that a folk singer’s duty is to make comfortable people disturbed, and disturbed people comfortable.”

Tweedy then sang the band’s Guthrie lyric-based song “Secret of the Sea.” (“Mermaind Avenue Vol. II,” 2000) Wilco finished out the night with two encore that included “Late Greats” (“A Ghost Is Born,” 2004), “Shot In the Arm” (“Summerteeth,” 1999), and “War on War.” (“Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, 2002)