Wilco Plays Gorgeously As The Sun Goes Down In The Tetons

Wilco was the headliner for the first day of the Jackson Hole Music Festival, and as paragliders drifted down from the top of Rendezvous Peak, smoke pouring theatrically from their shoes, the band, natch, played “Spiders(Kidsmoke).”  It was a glorious early evening in the Tetons.

Here, when Tweedy wore his LBJ Stetson, it seemed to make sense, the Sleeping Indian arrayed miles behind the stage.  “What do they call you people?  J-Holes?” he playfully asked the crowd.  But it was a different Jay the crowd was thinking of.  Since Son Volt is to play tomorrow, what were the odds of Tweedy and Jay Farrar playing together?  Based on the evidence, too high.  Maybe they’ll play together later tonight at the Mangy Moose.

For now, though, we had to settle for merely a great set, on a perfect evening where when the sun slipped down toward Idaho, the temperature drop was instantaneous.  Tweedy dedicated “California Stars” to Brian Wilson, who had played creditably in the slot before.  The songs off “Sky Blue Sky” were played note for note as they are on the record, but this is a band that can so well mix suppleness with power that such precision is a matter of honor, not rigidity.  “Walken,” “Hate It Here,” “Impossible Germany” all so great, you have to remember how the album was slagged by some when it came out — punishing Tweedy for going sober.  “Company on My Back” and “Handshake Drugs,” were sublime.  You get the sense that Tweedy is more relaxed having a virtuoso like Nels Cline throttle his guitar beside him.

It’s interesting.  One week ago, we went to Philadelphia to see Dylan and His Band at the Electric Factory, for the opportunity to see him play in an intimate setting.  We were looking forward to hearing the band in a club, not an arena, or even a minor league baseball park.  And of course, the sound system was terrible: if you weren’t dead center and fifty feet away, you may as well have been listening to a bootleg.  But here, outdoors, every note Wilco played reverberated clearly, and of course it would, in the alpine air.

Dedicated followers of Tulip Frenzy know that I have had some ambivalence about Wilco (https://johnbuckley100.wordpress.com/2008/02/28/wilco-at-the-930-club/).  I admire them, but have detested the heroin chic of encouraging singalongs to the lyrics “there’s something in my veins, bloodier than blood.”  I find them riveting, though perhaps not exciting.  Ah, but tonight was something else. Slowly, surely, Wilco are winning me over, their greatness increasingly undeniable. Tonight they were magnificent.

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