We missed opener Deerhoof so I can’t vouch for their performance, but you may listen for yourself; they have a 10-track live album available free online at http://deerhoof.killrockstars.com. Releasing a free album online is a definite plus, even if their music earns a heartfelt Minnesotan “that’s-interesting.”
War on War, Hummingbird, I’m Always In Love, At Least That’s What You Said, I’m a Wheel, A Shot in the Arm, I Am Trying To Break Your Heart, and others… The triumph of the night came at the end of Wilco’s set, “Less Than You Think” and a few minutes of its sonic withdrawal-headache leading into the Midwestern State-Fair rock chorus of “Spiders (Kidsmoke).” Both tunes were leaner than the “A Ghost Is Born” album cuts, and better for it – the passion that wrote them clearly pulsing out from onstage.
Wilco’s performance confirmed my best suspicions about “A Ghost Is Born” – that it is a record full of great songs, played well, written authentically from a cracked heart peeking outward. There’s also something more, a sort of consciousness, that the music is self-aware of its place in the stream of sound that began with Buddy Holly. Like a Chicagoan Radiohead, “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” and “A Ghost Is Born” face the present day with its ambiguities, fractures, noise, postmodernity, technology, and disillusion without being reduced to these things. YHF’s tweaky buzz IS Ghost’s guitar wanking, two sides of a true response. It took a trip to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts a few days later with Kate to make it clearer to me that Wilco is an auditory Thomas Hart Benton – far from a caricature of rock music, a thoroughly present work that is also firmly aware of its place within a tradition.
In the two encores we heard a different band, relaxing from their wrenching effort and just playing some songs, a graceful and knowing transition from art to the street.