Concert Review: Wilco at the Fillmore Miami Beach, March 22

Categories: Concert Review
Photo by John Hood
Wilco performing live at the Fillmore Miami Beach.
The Fillmore Miami Beach
Monday, March 22, 2010

Better Than:
Having to travel all the Way to Chicago's Vic Theater.

Call me a fogy if you want -- a lightweight, a wimp. Yes, Wilco staged at The Fillmore Gleason last night, and yes, I left at intermission. And I know damn well that more than a few folks in the sold-out crowd would take serious issue with my departure.

Forget the fact that this was Wilco's first ever Miami appearance, the first North American date on their new tour, and the first time the band has ever executed "An Evening With..." Forget that they vowed to play three hours and most likely did just that if not more. This was Wilco, man. And I walked out.

But not before I was wowed to a point that I thought a perfect end to a sublime evening.

Let me explain:

The night began as almost all of my best nights at The Fillmore Gleason have begun, and that was in the photo pit, with nothing between me and the band but my misgivings. This being Wilco, there were none. And I got to enjoy the full effect of having a couple thousand plus fans to my back and a powerhouse band before me.

It's a heady place to be alright -- privileged too. And I tend to savor every minute. The front line of worshipers, who arrived earliest, nabbed choice positions, and showed nothing if not utter devotion. And the band itself, which is unquestionably one of the most fan-friendly acts ever to grace that fabled stage.

If I and the cat standing behind me are not mistaken, Wilco opened with "Wilco (The Song)." Already a rollicking number, live Wilco stretched their namesake song to a frenzy of electric thrash and churn. And then they did likewise but more so with "Bull Black Nova," Nels Cline's guitar leading an attack of melodic dissonance that threatened to bring down the wall of sound.

Having doubled from last year's Wilco (The Album), Wilco the band then flashed back to 2007's Sky Blue Sky for the endearingly haunting "You Are My Face." Again the electric charged harder than the recording, only this time Pat Sansone and Jeff Tweedy got in on the thrashing as well.

In fact, Wilco has the most potent three-guitar charge since Lynyrd Skynyrd initially graced arenas. Sure, they've taken a page from Sonic Youth's playbook. But they've also shredded it, and then placed the pieces back together into a design wholly their own.

I'll not try to pretend to know all the other songs Wilco played before they broke for intermission. But I do recall "I'll Fight" and "One Wing" and "At Least That's What You Said" and a version of "Deeper Down" that was as subtle as a shadow and a version of "A Shot in the Arm" that literally exploded in the last four bars.

Then it happened, my perfect end to a sublime evening. The song is called "Handshake Drugs." It's a sing-song riot of color and narrative. And it evokes a part of my old life that I can still sometimes summon at will. Not always fondly, mind you. But it's there, lurking in the deep recesses of a very shady past.

If you've ever lived in a big city -- to me this reeks of New York, though it could very well be Chicago or Miami -- and gone downtown to cop, then you know the nearly out-of-body experience it can be. There's the thrill of hunt; the fear of getting beat; the giddy of anticipation. If your quest was driven by need, compound that exponentially; then triple it again. It's a dangerous business, and for all its deathly pallor, there's no way you can not feel completely alive while you're conducting it. Hell, you have no choice really; if you're not aware at every moment, you just may lose your life.

The way Wilco tells it is just the way it is, and the way it was for me lo those many moons ago. It brought me back; it revved me up; and it reached the very marrow of my being. And if you wanna take issue with that, have at it, because I for one would not have wanted to end the evening any other way.

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias: I use to live on the 42nd floor of Marina Towers, the twin cylindrical buildings on the cover of Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

Random Detail:
There was enough working class hip in the house to make it look like Chicago had come to Miami.

By the Way: If you feel like telling me (or the world) what came about after intermission of last night's kickass show, the Comments are open.

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