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Concert Reviews and Interviews:  Wilco

Murat Egyptian Room
Indianapolis, IN
Friday, July 19, 2002

I last caught Wilco three months ago in Columbus, OH when they were doing a few warm-up dates for an upcoming European tour. That was early April, just a week before the new record (Yankee Hotel Foxtrot) was set to hit stores, and as such, I knew very little of the new material. This night was similar (even predictable) from the standpoint of the song list, as they remained almost completely focused on new-era Wilco, heavily favoring the recent over the old. The stogy and sober “I am Trying to Break Your Heart” appropriately set the stage for the near two-hour set, with its grinding tempo and multi- instrumental forte of various guitars, brooding piano and Neil Young-like feedback. A steady and committed run through the Yankee Hotel Foxtrot material ensued, as “War on War” and “Kamera” briefly picked up the pace to popular approval. Unfortunately, the weaker moments of the new album were no more appealing in concert, so “Radio Cure” and “Jesus, Etc.” thoroughly tested the loyal meddle of this crowd.

They did successfully stray from this year’s work when “Shot in the Arm” preceded “She’s a Jar” (both from 1999’s Summerteeth), and the mostly full house of some 2,000 Hoosiers approved! But as the uninspired and melancholy pace of “Ashes of American Flags” returned, the mob again grew anxious. “Play some rock, Jeff!” declared one fan, and although the crowd chuckled, Tweedy shrugged it off as if he never heard it. Regardless, he responded by jumping straight into the highlights of the regular set, a dead-on version of “Heavy Metal Drummer” and the thundering “I’m the Man Who Loves You.” The later featured the flawless instrumentation of newcomer Leroy Bach, who was able to hop from keyboards to piano to electric guitar, all the while creating uniquely random noises via feedback. I also noted that drummer Glenn Kotche has done a remarkable job of filling the more than capable shoes of long-time Wilco and Uncle Tupelo skinman Ken Coomer.

“Sunken Treasure” and “Reservations” wound out the first set in moderately disappointing fashion, slowly and without any real passion. Then the encores (impressive in length, if nothing else!) seemed intent on righting any earlier wrongs. A feverish romp through “Pot Kettle Black” gave way to “I’m Always in Love,” each playing more to the crowd’s delight. Walking off briefly again, Tweedy and comrades returned for a second encore and this time really nailed it! The dreamy “California Stars” (featuring Jeff’s favorite harmonizing companion, bassist John Stirratt, the only original member who survived Tweedy’s recent downsizing) was awesome, and reminded most why they were there. 1996’s Being There then was revisited when “Red-Eyed and Blue” ran headlong into “I Got You” for the nightcap, before the obscure “I’m a Wheel” pulled the curtain shut. The eclectic Egyptian Room provided an ideal setting this night and the sound quality was impeccable. I only wish Wilco would have matched the level of enthusiasm which they have so many times prior, and that their loyal fans have grown to expect.

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