Wilco shines in Milwaukee

Phil Kronenberg

October 9 was the first cold day of fall. During the day, high winds flew through peoples’ hair and subtly bestowed kisses upon the tips of their noses. But when Wilco took the stage in Milwaukee, nobody minded the cold.
The three-part song “You Are My Face” opened the set gently as frontman Jeff Tweedy, bassist John Stirratt, and multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone sang in harmony, “But I’ve turned to rust as we’ve discussed/though I must have let you down too many times/in the dirt and the dust.”
The second part consisted of Tweedy belting out his soul over a foot-stomping rhythm section that caused the audience to bob their heads and tap their feet. The song’s coda continued as a gentle hum, but this time the three-part harmony looked towards the future, singing, “I’m looking forward/toward the shadows tracing bones.”
The opening song came from Wilco’s new album that they are touring behind ***Sky Blue Sky***. It’s an album that lyrically finds the light in accepting things that humans cannot change.
Musically, the sextet — Tweedy, Stirratt, Sansone, drummer Glenn Kotche, pianist Mikael Jorgensen, and guitarist Nels Cline — has always painted the backdrop to Tweedy’s lyrics, and on Tuesday night, the band stayed true to this rule. In fact, the new album sounded great live.
On “Impossible Germany,” as Tweedy sings a sincere letter to a lover, the three guitars of Tweedy, Cline, and Sansone brush together in and out like soft whispers into one’s ear. In ***Sky Blue Sky***, an old country shuffle slowly walks via brushes on the drums, lap steel, bass, and acoustic guitar.
During the chorus of “Hate It Here,” Kotche beats out pounding drum fills between the powerful guitar riffs to perfectly match Tweedy’s angst. While the band is touring behind their latest release, they reached far back into their catalog during the three encores.
There were rollicking rockers such as “Red Eyed and Blue”, “I Got You (At The End Of The Century),” “Casino Queen,” and “Outtasite (Outta Mind)” that would have made Keith Richards proud.
In “Too Far Apart” and “Hesitating Beauty,” Nels Cline — who has sometimes been ignorantly stereotyped as only an avant-garde guitarist — flew his fingers across his guitar while rocking and swinging the country blues.
But on the second to last song, Tweedy was alone. With his acoustic guitar in hand and without a PA system, he sang “Someone Else’s Song.” While the audience stood in silence in a moment of sublime americana, his voice rang throughout.
After the last song “Spiders (Kidsmoke),” the crowd slowly walked out of The Rave. Tomorrow was a Wednesday and the weather was expected to be colder, but Wilco fans left the building standing a little bit taller.