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Published: 2014/11/02
by Sarah Compo

Wilco, The Capitol Theatre, Port Chester, NY- 10/29

There’s a lot to be said about a band that can play back-to-back shows featuring completely different setlists to crowds that know every word to their songs.

That was the case with Wilco on Wednesday night, as the band played the second of their three sold-out nights at Port Chester’s Capitol Theatre. Shows, which were part of the band’s 20th anniversary run, come in advance of a six-night sold-out residency at Chicago’s Rivera Theatre in December, as well as the release of two new collections—a box-set of rare studio and live material and a compilation of “essential tracks” taken from previously released studio recordings (both out November 17).

Taking concert goers on a nearly three hour musical tour of sorts through their expansive discography, Wednesday night’s show leaned heavily on tunes from the group’s critically acclaimed 2002 release Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, and included the meditative yet heartbreaking “Radio Cure,” a standout “Ashes of American Flags,” “Pot Kettle Black” and crowd sing along favorite “Jesus, Etc.”

Other high points of the night included numbers where the incomparable Nels Cline let his talents shine. On “Art of Almost” a track from the group’s most recent release, The Whole Love, Cline shredded through the song’s climactic ending, convulsing and pouring pure energy into every chord. On what was the anniversary of the group’s 1996 release Being There, Cline also impressed on the album’s “Hotel Arizona.”

Other highlights of the evening included bassist John Stirratt swapping spots with frontman Jeff Tweedy for lead vocals on “It’s Just That Simple” and the rarity “Cars Can’t Escape.” The poppy ode to innocence, “Heavy Metal Drummer,” which featured energetic, pulsing percussion by Glenn Kotche closed out the set.

“Walken” kicked off the first of what would be two encores, followed by “I’m the Man Who Loves You.” With cheers from fans calling them back to the stage, the group performed a stripped down, unplugged set that has become characteristic of their 20th anniversary shows; dusting off instruments like the dobro, melodica and banjo for a second encore that was truly something special. The night ended with a sing-along version of the Woody Guthrie-penned tune “California Stars.”

In its 20 year existence, Wilco, like most bands, has seen its fair share of changes. Whether it was to the group’s lineup or their sound, they’ve weathered them all and as Wednesday night demonstrated, they’re all the better for it; having emerged as a band that today, is at the very top of their game with fans who continue to hang on every note.

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