WILCO: 30 YEARS YOUNG AT MASSEY HALL

30 Years Young and Stronger Than Ever

 

Almost twenty years after their inaugural performance at Massey Hall, Wilco returned with a seasoned vigour that belied the band’s and members’ age and demonstrated their musical journey. Never a band that relies on arena-scale production, Wilco celebrated entering their fourth decade with a musical and lyrical prowess that attached them to legions of fans over this stretch. Direct from their 8th biannual Solid Sound Festival at MASS MoCA in North Adams, MA, Wilco kicked off their first of two Toronto shows on July 2 with Via Chicago. Despite Massey Hall’s reputation for hushed reverence (and a pre-show warning to Tweedy from drummer Glenn Kotche saying that Canadian audiences remain seated so as not to obstruct views), the crowd couldn’t contain their enthusiasm during Misunderstood, joining Jeff Tweedy in the outro that rose above the singer. Guitarist Nels Cline made his mark with a striking solo during a country-infused number, Forget The Flowers, showcasing his handle of chicken pickin’. The evening’s energy peaked first during Handshake Drugs, where Wilco’s sound started immaculately crisp before ascending into a feedback jam that could rival the primal fervour of a 1969 Grateful Dead performance.

The band continued to explore new sonic landscapes, filling Massey Hall with synths that shimmered into a chimey, staccato ending of deep-cut Panthers. Classics like I Am Trying to Break Your Heart and the new upbeat 80s-vibed soft-rocker Meant to Be were warmly welcomed. Following this, Tweedy finally addressed the crowd. In particular, he mentioned how great it was to be back at Massey after its 2-year renovation commenting on how great it sounds. A grey-bearded dad called out “You sound great!” to which Tweedy replied “That’s the kind of individual encouragement we’re looking for. Better than the woman who said ‘Are you still figuring things out?’ Sometimes we need a bit of time between songs, ma’am.” Shocking no one, Jeff Tweedy comes with a wry sense of humour, which has been a key feature in the three biographic books he’s authored. Hummingbird saw a thousand grey-bearded dads singing along earnestly and At Least That’s What You Said followed offering a moment for Pat Sansone’s guitar work to shine alongside Cline, culminating in a mesmerizing jam that unfolded and dissolved like flower petals in the wind. At least that’s what my notes read, man.

Jesus, Etc. elicited a lovely sing-along, while Impossible Germany handed the spotlight to Cline to extend a solo into a building melodic beauty. Heavy Metal Drummer kept the energy high with A Shot in the Arm injecting a final burst of adrenaline to savour before the band returned for their encores. Following a pause, the band returned with the Guelph Chamber Choir who helped the band sing Cruel Country and California Stars. Night one of Wilco’s pair of Massey Hall shows ended with the band performing Falling Apart (Right Now) and Spiders (Kidsmoke).

Wilco may not be a jam band by definition, their ability to play with dynamics was noted, but with a finesse that showcased their understanding and depth of their sound. For Wilco fans, it was a near-perfect setlist performed in excellence. What tonight holds is just the mystery returning fans will relish discovering.

Wilco’s Tour To Infinity continues tonight at Massey Hall before ending announced shows for the year at Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, NY. More info here.

 

Aron Harris
Aron Harris is ADDICTED Magazine's music editor as well as a contributor. As a graphic designer, writer and photographer, you can find his work all over ADDICTED. He also geeks out over watches, pizza, bass guitars and the Grateful Dead.
Aron Harris

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