- Live Review
- 12 Sep 23
The Chicago band deliver an unforgettable performance for their first Irish show since 2016
Wilco's fourth studio album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is, without doubt, one of the greatest albums of the 2000s. Released in April 2002, it wasn't until about 2009 that I discovered Wilco and fell in love with this album. It's taken me fourteen more years to see them live, and I'm happy to report that they did not disappoint. Met by wild cheers, the American alt-rockers delight their Irish audience with a hit-packed setlist as well as their latest single 'Evicted' from their upcoming album Cousin.
Launching straight into their set they kick off the show with 'Hell Is Chrome' from 2004's A Ghost Is Born. Everyone in the mostly male audience, is nodding along mellowly in understated delight. This is Wilco's first Irish show since 2016 and there's a real sense of excitement and celebration in the air on this sweaty September night. Frontman Jeff Tweedy has a likability that most singer-songwriters can only dream of. Far from a cocksure showman, Tweedy is self-deprecating and shy. The connection with his audience has been forged through his candid lyrics and emotional vulnerability. With three red Persian rugs beneath them and warm stage-lighting to the back, Wilco are ready to rock.
A familiar cacophony of sounds spurs a loud cheer from the crowd for the distinctive intro of 'I Am Trying to Break Your Heart'. It's clear the band is feeding off the upbeat mood of the 3Olympia audience, who are positively buoyant. The audience sings loudly and perfectly on cue “I - AM TRYING - TO BREAK YOUR HEART.”
While Wilco may be best known for their reluctant frontman Jeff Tweedy, their band features a stellar line-up of world-class musicians including bassist John Stirratt, multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone and keyboard player Mikael Jorgensen. Los Angeles native Nels Cline is one of the greatest guitarists of all time. Watching Cline shred 'Impossible Germany' live is something to behold - he's just sensational.
Then there's their ace drummer, Glenn Kotche. Tweedy has called him one of the world's greatest drummers and many would agree. Kotche takes it up another notch for 'Random Name Generator' from 2015's Star Wars. The Illinois outfit evoke a beautiful sing along for the classic, 'Misunderstood'. While Tweedy delicately plays his well worn acoustic guitar repeating "Nothing, nothing, nothing" over and over as Kotche nearly busts his drumsticks in two.
We're almost half-way through the set before Tweedy greets the crowd. Looking out at the decorative plaster mouldings of the 19th century auditorium, Tweedy jokes that it feels like he's "playing inside a wedding cake".
They play material from 11 of their 13 studio albums including with fan-favourite 'Jesus, Etc.' and the Billy Bragg & Wilco cover 'California Stars'. It was a lucky night for fans of 2004's A Ghost Is Born with six songs on the menu, including a rocking version of 'Handshake Drugs'.
'Side With the Seeds' showcases more of Nels and Tweedy's incredible guitar playing, full of fluttering solos that spark involuntary smiles throughout the audience. 'Box Full of Letters' from their 1994 debut album A.M. is given a quick-witted intro by Tweedy, who pokes fun at the general demographic of their fanbase. "I think we may have played this in Whelans when this song came out. Are you still here?," he asks the Dublin audience - "Get Your prostate checked!"
Their beloved anthem 'Heavy Metal Drummer' gets a big reaction from the audience who have totally succumbed to the endless groove that Wilco have created.
Almost uncomfortable with the warm response from the audience, Tweedy insists, “We do not deserve this reaction. Maybe they do (his bandmates) but I don't.” Reciprocating the love, Wilco return with a four song encore, ending on a high with, 'I'm a Wheel'. When it's done by a band dripping in this much talent, guitar band music is hard to beat. 2023 has been an incredibly busy year for gigs across Ireland but Wilco are right up there with one of the best concerts of the year. Here's hoping they make Ireland a yearly visit on their tour circuit.
- Live Review
- 11 Sep 23