Wilco – Live at Cobb Energy Centre

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This was my first visit to the Cobb Energy Centre, a newer venue in the Atlanta area designed more for classical performances than rock music.  Arriving early, my concert buddy and I headed to the different levels to check the views.  This is a very nice facility, with excellent sight lines.

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Our seats were directly behind the soundboard,” meaning that the acoustics were for all intensive purposes trained for our ears.  We spoke briefly with the technician, who has mixed the sound for Wilco for 15 years, longer than most of the members have been a part of the band. 

The opener was Nick Lowe, a British artist who was a member of Brinsley Schwarz and Rockpile before releasing a number of solo IMG_5464albums over the last 30 years.  He took the stage at 8:15, launching into a breezy set of solo acoustic songs, only a couple of which were familiar to me.  He has a warm, soulful voice, sort of like Roy Orbison without the distinctiveness.  He chatted more with the audience between one song than most artists do in their entire performance… much appreciated.

Songs included his major hit, “Cruel to be Kind,” as well as “Ragin’ Eyes,” “I Live on a Battlefield,” “(What’s so Funny ‘Bout) Peace Love and Understanding,” “When I Write the Book,” “All Men are Liars,”  plus others as well as a song from his new release The Old Magic, the topical “House for Sale.”  He closed with a cover of Johnny Cash’s “The Beast in Me,” an excellent but curiously dark choice.  Still, it was a captivating performance, as evidenced by the all but complete quiet of the audience.  There was none of the usual murmur during an opening act.   Well done.

Among staging backdrops, Wilco’s was definitely unique.  At a glance, it appeared that a  Halloween flavor was intended, with small ghosts suspended from the ceiling and scarecrows to the side.  I’ve learned to never underestimate light shows, and these made for an interesting background with spotlights, bulbs set inside some of the “ghosts,” and projected patterns/colors also.

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Wilco took the stage fairly quietly, launching into the closing song from their new CD, Whole Love.  The song, “One Sunday Morning,” has a propelling guitar hook that moves the song along… whether it’s hypnotic or repetitive is up to the listener, but lead guitarist Nels Cline has a way of keeping things interesting.  Wilco would ultimately play 9 of the 12 songs from this CD, released just this past Tuesday.  “Art of Almost” followed, a Radiohead influenced departure from the band’s “normal” (they’re always quirky) sound. 

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I’m not sure if the playing three new songs up front diminished the crowd enthusiasm or whether the ambience a “performing arts theater” has a muting effect.  I think it was the latter, as the acoustics were splendid – to the point where lead singer Jeff Tweedy’s acoustic guitar could be heard as easily as Cline’s crazy electric solos.

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This was my first Wilco concert, and I’m a casual fan.  I like some of what they do, but they have the habit of taking a good song and upsetting it musically in jarring or abrasive fashion.  They have been termed “alt-country,” but the band is clearly a rock band today, one not afraid to use pedal steel here and there. 

The performance itself was not particularly energetic as rock shows go.  It leaned towards a musical performance, suitable for the setting.  Aside from Cline bending and swaying with his guitar, the concert was visually static… until keyboardist/guitarist Pat Sansone struck multiple cloying guitar hero poses at the concert’s end (his parents were in the audience… I’d guess it was for them).

All things considered, it was a very good show – an enjoyable evening in a great venue that let a band be heard as they should.

4 of 5 STARS

 

 

Set list:

One Sunday Morning
Art of AlmostIMG_5475
I Might
Muzzle of Bees
I am Trying to Break Your Heart
One Wing
At Least That’s What You Said
Capitol City
Misunderstood
Jesus, Etc.
Born Alone
Box Full of Letters
War on War
Standing O
Rising Red Lung
Impossible Germany
Dawned on Me
A Shot in the Arm

Encore:

Whole Love
California Stars
Hate it Here
Walken
Red-Eyed and Blue
I Got You (At the End of the Century)
Outtasite (Outta Mind)

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