Wilco has been around for 18 years, so on Tuesday night, at Wilco’s first of three L.A. shows, the age discrepancy of the audience members was apparent and adorable. Spotted were college freshmen sporting the latest H&M styles standing next to couples that could easily be their parents, as well as groups of friends in their 30s converging near balding men pushing 70 trying to dance as their wives sipped beers and leaned against banisters for the much-needed support. If you were blind you could probably still sense the disparity in age just from the songs people chose to sing along to, being that Wilco played older songs like “Monday” and “Red Eyed And Blue” (1996) as well as this past year’s singles “Art Of Almost” and “I Might.”
For his first address to the audience, frontman Jeff Tweedy said, “Not everyone in this band has had the same musical training at points, so we’ve had to make up our own language.” He then had the audience try and guess what song started, in Wilco’s musical language, with “Hey. You. What’s? For LUNCH!” After a few minutes of people trying to guess and drummer Glenn Kotche playing the musical interpretation of the phrase, Tweedy cued the band to begin by saying, “I thought we’d share. Sorry, now I’m hungry.” The song turned out to be “I Must Be High” (1995). Tweedy introduced the next song, “I’m Always In Love” (1999), by saying “This one just starts 1, 2, 3, 4,” as Kotche clapped his sticks together.
Later in the evening Tweedy looked at the audience members to his right, complimenting them on being “generous.” Those on the crowd on his left side took offense, so he tried to appease them by stating, “I’m not saying you’re not generous. I’m just saying they’re especially excited over there. I’m not gonna start a big thing, this side versus that side. It’s beneath us, especially before this song.” The band went into “Capitol City” (2011), after which the crowd burst into uproarious post-song cheers prompting Tweedy to smile and say, “OK, I think that’s about equal.”
After playing “War On War” (2002) Tweedy told the audience he had recently seen a recording of a live performance by Sammy Hagar and realized he’d, “never said the word pussy on stage…except for right now.” He then screamed, “PUSSSSAAAAAY” into the microphone before playing “Dawned On Me” (2011).
When the band came out for its first encore, Tweedy laughed saying, “Aw, you knew we were coming back.” Wilco then played the gorgeous “Via Chicago” (1999), and throughout it, various members would suddenly start shredding and playing with the intensity of a teenage band over Tweedy’s unwavering soft and soulful singing, as is tradition when playing this song live. After a five-song encore, the band took its bows, but the audience kept on cheering until the group came out again. For its second encore, the various pieces of white cloth hanging from the ceiling above the band glowed dimly, as if they were part Chinese lanterns, part ghosts, while Wilco played a haunting and heart-wrenching rendition of “The Lonely 1” (1996).
Photos by Annie Lesser