Wilco

Friday, September 17, at the Granada Theater

With its nine-minute songs and indulgent feedback, Wilco's A Ghost Is Born is better seen as a concert album, full of the screaming musical tangents you expect from a live show. There's a reason for that: Before laying down tracks, the band played the songs on tour, cracking them open in ways that don't always suit a studio album. The result is a CD that sounds amazing in concert and annoying on my car stereo. But at Friday night's Granada Theater, frontman Jeff Tweedy proved how powerful those songs can be in the proper setting, playing most of the tracks off their latest effort along with several from the band's brilliant (and exquisitely studio-produced) Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Opening with "Handshake Drugs," Tweedy looked the picture of perfect rehabilitation; known for chain smoking and occasionally leaving the stage to vomit, Tweedy did neither, and he not only sounded terrific, but he actually seemed to be enjoying himself. He broke into a playful jog in the middle of the jaunty "Hummingbird" and joked with the adoring audience. "Why is there always some guy in the audience saying 'I love you, Jeff?'" he asked, imitating someone's drunken shout-out. "I'm appreciative--and scared." Avant-garde guitarist Nels Cline, added for the tour, practically burns with talent, but it was never too much; if anything, there was less white-noise wankery than I expected, and what was there had muscle--"Spiders (Kidsmoke)" made for a sublime, transporting set-ender. Fans of Uncle Tupelo and the old, ultra-melodic Wilco may have been disappointed as the show included no songs from Tweedy's former band and only a handful from Summer Teeth ("Shot in the Arm," "Candyfloss," second-encore finale "In a Future Age") and Being There ("Kingpin," "Sunken Treasure"). But my only complaint is a feeble one--the band's two encores stretched out to a ridiculous nine songs, a set in itself, but bitching about too much Wilco is like whining about being too rich or too fabulous. Renewed by rehab, finally settling into his own fame and simply churning with heartache and melody, Jeff Tweedy proved Wilco remains one of the best--if not the best--band in America today.

 
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