Friday, June 15
Though touring to support a relatively low-key album, Wilco thoroughly rocked the sold-out theater Friday at the Murat.
The giddy audience sang and clapped along at the slightest encouragement, greeting songs from the band’s two most recent albums — the brand new “Sky Blue Sky” and 2004’s “A Ghost Is Born” — as if they were time-honored classics. And that’s a good thing, as the 70-minute main set was heavily stacked with newer material.
Credit Wilco’s penchant for using technology to maintain its fan base. Interested parties were able to stream “Sky Blue Sky” from the band’s Web site for weeks prior to the May 15 release. (Incidentally, the Indianapolis concert — one of the first on the U.S. leg of the ongoing world tour — was streamed live on the site Friday night.)
As usual for the Murat Theatre, sound quality was good, even pristine in the quieter moments. When the six-piece band cranked up, however, finer points such as guitarist Nels Cline’s mind-blowing solos were sometimes lost in the mix.
Frontman Jeff Tweedy was relaxed and jovial throughout the night, cracking jokes and busting the kind of stage moves one expects from a white Midwestern guy. His ability to turn shyness into a sort of charisma was never more apparent than when he closed the initial set with “Hummingbird,” a foppishly catchy Anglo-pop tune from “Ghost” that’s 180 degrees from the band’s country-rock foundations. The packed house sang every word and exploded in applause as the players left the stage.
Just a few minutes passed before Tweedy returned with harmonica and acoustic guitar for a solo rendition of the ’90s favorite “Sunken Treasure.” Next came the full band with “Spiders (Kidsmoke)” from the “Ghost” album, a tune whose Pavlovian hard-rocking chorus seems to guarantee its future as a concert staple.
A second encore included “Heavy Metal Drummer,” during which percussionist Glenn Kotche couldn’t resist a few hair-band-style stick twirls. Ending the night were “Outtasite,” the only full-tilt rocker from the revered “Being There” album, and “California Stars,” from Wilco’s “Mermaid Avenue” collection of unpublished Woody Guthrie songs.
Minnesota slowcore band Low opened the evening with a respectable set that frankly didn’t get much respect from concertgoers, many of whom took the opportunity to stand in line for drinks and Wilco T-shirts.