Can music reach a perfect apex? Can something be so good, so joyous that you are left feeling completely satisfied. Are there moments in time that when they end you want them back again. What if a band that you love gives you everything you require and adds a few extra layers of ecstacy. Well if you saw Wilco at the Enmore Theatre Saturday night in Sydney you will know what I mean. Wilco came, saw and conquered. I have seen them before, but only in festival situations where they play shorter sets and amid various distractions. Last night was the first time I have seen them perform in their own right. Sublime greatness is what I witnessed.
They have such a vast and excellent catalogue that you will never hear every song you would love, but I have no complaints. Of course "Sunken Treasure" would have sent me into Nirvana. But I kinda didn't expect it. "Heavy Metal Drummer" and "Ashes of American Flags" would have been great too, but what was heard was pretty close to perfection. They opened with "You Are My Face" off the upcoming "Sky Blue Sky". In fact they played four new songs, all sounding great, especially the Beatles-like "Hate it Here". "What Light" was one they didn't play which I thought they would. Of course their monster records "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" and "A Ghost Is Born" received heavy coverage. "Jesus, etc." was serene, "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart" was sublime, "Handshake Drugs" was inventive and really rocked, "Theologians" was devastating (when Jeff screamed A Ghost Is Born I almost melted), "Hummingbird" was sheer beauty and "At Least That's What You Said" flattened me with its guitar wizardry. They delved further back into the past with songs off the "Mermaid Avenue" sessions including the divine "California Stars" and "Airline to Heaven". And "Summerteeth" got a look in with the fist pumping "Shot in the Arm" and the heartbreaking "Via Chicago".
So many other positives, the sound was great, lighting was just right and the band were just super tight. Glenn Kotche attacked the drums with admirable fervour. John Stirratt, Pat Sansone and Mikael Jorgenson displayed their excellent musical skills. Nels Cline was simply incredible, his guitar playing ability almost other worldly. And it always seemed when his guitar pyrotechnics would go overboard the band would all come together again. Oh and some guy named Jeff Tweedy was pretty good. A voice of such character and depth, he was in excellent form. His guitar work was outstanding and when needed to, he communicated with the audience with great warmth, humour and generosity. He cracked wise about Tasmania and Queensland, said he was pleased to be playing in "Steak and Kidney". He got great crowd involvement in "Kingpin" getting everyone to imitate pirates at the end of the song. Two encores, well over two hours, the band seemed to feed off the crowd's delight playing with passion and joy. Oh, and the second encore. Devastating, sorry I am running out of adjectives at this point. They played "Misunderstood", enough said. To say I was pleased would be a massive understatement. Then they completed the night with an incendiary "Poor Places">"Spiders (Kidsmoke)". I was witnessing greatness.
Thank you Wilco. And thank you to the crowd, who were respectful, involved and gave this great band an environment to excel in.
You Are My Face
I Am Trying to Break Your Heart
Muzzle Of Bees
A Shot in the Arm
At Least That's What You Said
One By One
War on War
I'm The Man Who Loves You
Hate It Here
The Late Greats
I'm A Wheel
Airline to Heaven
To make the night even better, Augie March's Glenn Richards performed an excellent set before hand. Accompanied by Kiernan Box on harmonica, his powerful voice rang through the Enmore giving us a marvellous appetiser to the main event. Playing a selection of Augie March tunes including "One Crowded Hour", I thought the songs sounded better then when played in full band mode. Definite highlights were two covers, "A Rainy Night in Soho" (The Pogues) and "Ohio River Boat Song" (Palace Music). Anytime I can hear Will Oldham written music is always a pleasure, so well done Mr Richards.