Wilco with Nick Lowe at Massey Hall; Friday September 16, 2011

Nick Lowe is 62 years-old. I’m completely blown away at learning this. I was set back about fifteen rows to the right of the stage, so I couldn’t really see tiny details. If it wasn’t for his silver hair, I wouldn’t have known that he was an older guy.

I know a bit of Nick Lowe’s material, I recently bought the re-issue of Jesus of Cool, which has a b-side featuring the song “Cruel to be Kind,” a song originally from the 1979 album Labour of Lust. “Cruel to be Kind” was definitely his greatest hit, he saved it for one of the last tunes of his set. Something funny to note, I spent quite a long time trying to figure how I know this song, not surprisingly, it was from the 10 Things I Hate About soundtrack, covered by the female band Letters to Cleo. Suffice it to say, Lowe’s version is heaps better!!!

He played the entire set with just an acoustic guitar. It was a very laid back set that didn’t do anything over the top, but kept everyone warm and cozy. His sound is just that, completely warm and inviting. I especially loved his cover of the Elvis Costello tune “Allison.”

Wilco has always been one of those bands that have stayed at the back of my mind. They’ve never really exploded big, but their fan base is pretty steady and large enough for them to play a gorgeous venue like Massey Hall. So, on a whim, I bought a ticket.

Maybe four years ago I purchased the album Yankee Foxtrot Hotel and ironically fell in love with the tune “I am Trying to Break Your Heart.” Years later, that love still lingers and hearing was a real fresh reminder of how genius this band really is. They’ve got a relatively clean sound with spatters of noise.

Listening to some of their albums is pretty difficult for me because I have to walk over to my CD player and change the tune because I can’t stand to listen to organised feedback anymore. Their show was no different, except I couldn’t turn them off. In watching them harness their sound (and noise), I really found a new sense of respect for it. Especially in the tune “Via Chicago” off of the 1999 album Summerteeth. The song is a pretty mellow track that doesn’t take the noise outside of my comfort zone, but at the live show during the verses they very unexpectedly swelled into noise that completely rattled everyone up. The drummer and guitarist pounded controlled noodling while lead-singer Jeff Tweedy nonchalantly continued business as usual. Moments like this made me appreciate the noise.

I really enjoyed their crisp performance of “Impossible Germany” off the album Sky Blue Sky.

Their performance of the Summerteeth tune “She’s a Jar” was pretty humourous to watch. Tweedy had forgotten the second verse. He followed by making a comment about how in fifteen years of playing this song, they never fudged up the words. He asked the crowd for some help and a guy yelled words that had already been sung. Tweedy proceeded to call him a dummy. A few songs later Tweedy followed it up with a very sincere apology, calling himself a dummy for forgetting his own words.

I really enjoyed the last song before the encore, titled “A Shot in the Arm.” I think I’ve found a new blooding giving anthem, replacing Bon Iver’s “Blood Bank.”

Playing “A Shot in the Arm,” the band had some serious hold on the crowds heartstrings. People adore this band, given mostly thirtysomething men, but beyond that people adore this band. Wilco are certainly not shy to capitalise on this love – Tweedy jest that they’d be back real soon, like tomorrow.

Wilco after all these years have been able to keep the marriage alive, their music has a fabulous spice to it. They’ve done a terrific job keeping old tunes fresh, even though they’re new to my ears!


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