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Jeff Tweedy on Tuesday night allowed as how he’d been watching Sammy Hagar perform recently and realized he’s never dropped the P-word onstage. So in front of a sold-out crowd at the Palladium, with hand-in-the-cookie-jar glee, the Wilco bandleader boyishly said it. Three times.
The band got a chuckle out of that one, and so did the overgrown kids in the audience, Wilco lifers who know that Tweedy isn’t the kind to cuss and swagger and vamp. He might front one of the planet’s best rock bands, but Jeff Tweedy is no rock frontman – he’s just the Midwestern boy next door whose music has grown and flourished in remarkable and sometimes serpentine ways. It seems implicit in his comportment that he hopes your life has too.
- ||| Photos by Laurie Scavo
Tweedy’s mid-set mischief was the lightest of many buoyant moments during the Chicago-based sextet’s career-spanning performance. Over 2 hours and 15 minutes, Wilco projected themselves as musical changelings, equally adept as purveyors of tight pop-rock or as sonic adventurers. That it all held together so well spoke volumes about the prowess of the players – bassist John Stirratt, guitarist Nels Cline, keyboardist Mikael Jorgensen, multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone and drummer Glenn Kotche – as well as the subtle power of Tweedy’s voice as sort of a narrative thread.
Tweedy could have narrated the phone book to this crowd and gotten an ovation, but his occasionally playful antics between songs belied the seriousness of what transpired when the music began.
Performing on a stage festooned with hanging white bulbs of cloth – were they meant to suggest pendant flowers, or just somebody’s idea of poorly hung laundry? – Wilco segued seamlessly from the weird and wonderful (“The Art of Almost” and, later, “Impossible Germany” and “Capitol City”) to Tweedy’s Uncle Tupelo roots (“I Got You [At the End of the Century]” and “I Must Be High”) to the sweet pop of the “Summerteeth” album (“I’m Always in Love” and “Shot in the Arm”). Some of it made you wanna cry, some of it made you wanna sing along, some of it made you wanna get high – all compulsions that some in the packed Palladium indulged.
Wilco played six tracks from its most recent (eighth) album, “The Whole Love,” but not the long jam “One Sunday Morning (Song For Jane Smiley’s Boyfriend),” which has been present in other sets on the tour (in fact, the setlist Tuesday offered 10 different songs from what the band played Sunday in San Diego).
The night’s second encore, just one song, seemed perfect for the adulatory whiff in the air. It was “The Lonely 1,” a somber paean from fan to band and another in the many ways on Tuesday night that Tweedy reminded his fans that when it’s all said and done, he’s one of them.
Opener White Denim certified themselves as a guitarist’s guitar band. The Austin four-piece blasted through a a half-hour set that was equal parts Sonic Youth, Led Zeppelin and Allman Brothers, capping the set with “Street Joy,” off last May’s album “D.”
||| Live: Wilco plays tonight at the Wiltern and on Thursday at the Los Angeles Theatre.
||| Live: White Denim does a headlining set on Feb. 11 at the Satellite.