Nobody else can do that.
We have rock ‘n’ roll bands. We have blues singers. We have folk rockers and country singers and indie rock bands.
But there’s only one Wilco, the one band that can be anything and can do anything they please.
Wilco has a decidedly Beatles-esque approach, which is to write a song and rather than present it in the most straightforward way, deconstruct it completely and find brand-new ways to present the song. Even its most listening-friendly songs have little quirks and runs and noise that make them unique and all the more memorable.
On Wednesday night, the band drew nearly 2,000 to pack inside the Orpheum Theater and hear a career-spanning set that included songs from the group's first album, 1995’s “A.M.,” through this year’s “Ode to Joy.”
Wilco started as an alt-country band. They could have been stereotypical of the turn-of-the-century indie rock band. They’ve gone straight-up rock ‘n’ roll. They’ve made folk records with Billy Bragg.
And that’s exactly what they did in Omaha. Everything. All of it.
I admittedly never actually saw Wilco in person until this show in Omaha. I’ve seen frontman Jeff Tweedy solo, and I’ve watched innumerable live concert films and listened to more than a few live recordings made by fans of the band.
But its Omaha show was my first, and it was one of the best sets I’ve ever heard from Wilco.
The 27-song set lasted nearly two and a half hours, and it touched every facet of the band’s career. Dire love songs. Cacophonous rock. Toe-tapping ’60s rock.
And the sextet — Tweedy alongside Patrick Sansone, Mikael Jorgensen, Nels Cline, Glenn Kotche and John Stirratt — sounded beautiful. They’re each incredibly talented. Drummer Kotche and lead guitarist Cline, in particular, made each song shine with intricate work that few other musicians could produce.
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Fans were there for it. They stood on their feet for not just the fast rockers but for the songs they liked the best, even if it was a quiet tune like “Reservations.” They knew the words to “Hummingbird” and cheered the thunderstorm-sounding sections of “Via Chicago.” They threw their hands in the air for “Random Name Generator” and stood in awe for Cline’s guitar solo during “Impossible Germany.”
It all came together — band and audience and melody and everything — in one of those concert moments you know you’ll always remember. As Wilco played “Jesus Etc.,” the voices of the audience rose up to meet them like an old practiced choir. Tweedy stood back from the microphone and let the fans carry the chorus:
Tall buildings shake
Voices escape singing sad, sad songs
Tuned to chords strung down your cheeks
Bitter melodies turning your orbit around.
It was beautiful.
“This is some serious Wilco-mania happening up here,” Tweedy said later. “It’s Wilco Wednesday. … What a lavish outpouring of affection. Thank you so much. You’re very, very kind.”
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