Wilco | 8.22 & 8.12 | East & West

Words & Images by: Tony Stack

Wilco :: 08.22.08 :: Les Schwab Amphitheater :: Bend, OR

Wilco :: 08.22 :: Bend, OR
Wilco's late summer tour has seen them crisscrossing the nation, hitting cities as spread out as Fairbanks, Alaska and Eagle, Idaho. This Saturday night concert in Bend, Oregon began early, around 6:30 p.m., with a great but way too short set by Seattle's new, lo-fi kings, The Fleet Foxes. The Central Oregon crowd was treated to what David Letterman and Wilco already know, i.e. that these guys are something special. Lead singer Robin Pecknold's celestial tenor was the centerpiece of songs that featured CSN-like harmonies surrounded by deep, complex musical arrangements. Their quirky acoustic and electric instrumentation blended to give their performance a studio-like quality. The Fleet Foxes are true craftsmen, and proved to be worthy of the critical acclaim their new self-titled debut album has garnered over the last few months.

The sun was still shining brightly on the soft grass of the Les Schwab Amphitheater when Wilco quietly took the stage. The opening "You Are My Face" was a nice choice, as it perfectly showcased Wilco's strengths with Jeff Tweedy's aching lyrics next to Nels Cline's precise solos and fills. Throughout the 20-plus-song set, they pulled out tunes from almost every one of their releases, including "I'm the Man Who Loves You," "Impossible Germany" and "Handshake Drugs." Glenn Kotche multi-tasked all evening by providing slow steady backbeats on mellow songs like "War on War" and then turning into a drumming maniac, powering the extended jams of "Spiders (Kidsmoke)." John Stirrat, Pat Sansone and Mikael Jorgensen also worked successfully to make the more ambitious material like "I'm Trying to Break Your Heart" sound first-rate at the outdoor amphitheater.

Tweedy was obviously in a good mood as he bantered with the crowd after almost every song, and at one point hinted at the upcoming tour with Neil Young by saying they were going to be "opening for legends" soon. Wilco really turned up the heat late in the set with a spectacular triple threat featuring smoking versions of "Heavy Metal Drummer," "Hate It Here" and "Walken." The final encore let the crowd relax a bit as The Fleet Foxes joined in on the Dylan classic "I Shall Be Released." This incarnation of Wilco has matured nicely as a band, giving Jeff Tweedy's lyrical vision a sonic foundation that may single-handedly keep rock & roll alive in the 21st Century.

Wilco :: 08.22.08 :: Bend, OR
Wilco :: 08.22.08 :: Bend, OR

Continue reading for a review of Wilco on August 12 in Lenox, MA...

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