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Review: Wilco at San Jose Civic

In Music
Jeff Tweedy at Wilco's sold-out show at the San Jose Civic Saturday. Photo: Jennifer Andersen

Jeff Tweedy at Wilco's sold-out show at the San Jose Civic Saturday. Photo: Jennifer Andersen

Jeff Tweedy brought his iconic alt-country band Wilco to the San Jose Civic on Saturday night for the first of three sold-out shows in the Bay Area, and expectations were high. After long being one of those bands that seemed to tour perpetually, they’re back on the road after a lengthy (for them) self-imposed break. The new album, The Whole Love, is one of their best, and the band’s lineup, which has been in constant flux since Tweedy formed it in the wake of Uncle Tupelo’s break-up, has been stable now for something like three entire albums.

And yet, something told me the show couldn’t live up to it all.

Before last night, I’d only seen Wilco once before, about three years ago. It was an outdoor festival, and though I’m a longtime fan, it was underwhelming in the worst way. So relentlessly mid-tempo and mellow that it quickly got monotonous, it made a band I’ve always considered rather unpredictable and exciting seem sadly one-dimensional.

That’s why I braced myself for a long night yesterday when their first song upon hitting the stage was “One Sunday Morning,” the last song on the new album. It’s not a bad song, per se—supposedly written for author Jane Smiley’s boyfriend, it has some interesting struggling-with-spirituality type lyrics. But it’s also super mellow, musically repetitive and 12 minutes long. This was exactly what I didn’t want from a Wilco show.

Luckily, they dived immediately after into “Art of Almost,” also from the new album. Okay, this one is also long, but it’s maybe the best song on The Whole Love. They really ratcheted up the distorted guitars and electronic pulse for the live version, pushing into a far darker, more intense place.

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