Sunday, December 4, 2011

Wilco and Nick Lowe at the Uptown Theater in KC: Peace, Love, Understanding, Weed, and Scorching Rock and Roll

Scenesters, you can say what you will about Wilco: that they haven't been truly great since A Ghost is Born, that the last three albums sometimes feel a bit interchangeable, that they've embraced their jammy tendencies a little too much in the live show. And there are elements of truth in all of those oft-delivered critiques. But all that melts away (along with your face) in the midst of a truly monstrous Nels Cline guitar solo like the one at the end of "Art of Almost," which arrived two songs into last night's set and more than made up for the five minutes of unecessary drone at the end of the first song and the seizure-inducing light show accompanying "Almost." You snarky scenesters can throw around the term "dad rock" all you want but it's VERY unlikely your dads can rock like motherfucking Nels Cline.

Guitar wizardry aside, however, at the center of Wilco is the lyrics, which is what drew us to them from their very first album (AM is far better than anyone gives it credit for, and "Box Full of Letters" was a set highlight last night). Here are a few lines that stuck in our ears during last night's set:

"I dreamed about killing you again last night...and it felt all right to me." ("Via Chicago.").

"Oh, distance has no way...of making love...understandable." ("Radio Cure.").

"His goal in life was to be an echo." ("Hummingbird").

When we first listened to Wilco's sophomore album Being There, way back in 1996, we already knew they were evolving into something (dare we say) important, but it never occurred to us that a song like "Misunderstood" might become a singalong anthem for sold-out crowds fifteen years down the line with its cynical shout-a-long final lines: "I'd like to thank you all for nothing at all." But we know that Tweedy is very thankful his fans have been so devoted for so long (look no further than his good-humored but obviously pissed-off comments last night about some sort of ticket snafu that resulted in those who waited the longest in the rain not necessarily being able to stand the closest).

And what about Nick Lowe? Looking dapper and dressed in black (below that shock of white hair), he regaled us with a short set that included a Rockpile song, a cover of his pal Elvis Costello's "Alison," and, of course, the song that Costello made legendary: "(What's So Funny Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding." Generally, he charmed everyone's pants off for about half an hour (except for maybe the dude behind us, who spent most of Lowe's set telling a rather loud anecdote about pajamas and gerbils). At the end of the evening, Tweedy referred to Lowe as "our hero" and brought him back out for the night's final song, with the two swapping lyrics on "Cruel To Be Kind."

"Do you still love rock and roll?" Tweedy asks, in "Misunderstood." We sure do, Wilco.

Random observations:

KC brought out its finest weed for the elegant Uptown Theater. This stuff smelled far superior to that skunky shit you all are always smoking outdoors at the Crossroads.

Our personal set highlight was the one-two hootenany punch of Tupelo's "New Madrid" followed up by "Someday Soon," a little gem from Being There.

Readers, do you realize that, if you purchased four "large" beers at this show, you spent the same amount of money you spent on your concert ticket? Ten bucks for a beer? We certainly weren't in Larryville anymore! So we drank "small" beers out of what appeared to be a thimble and still spent too much.

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