How could one man possibly expect to carry the tightly knit songwriting and overwhelming orchestration of Wilco on his shoulders with just one guitar? The band’s work is so vast, complex and impenetrable that it seems almost impossible for such a feat to be accomplished. It spans more moments, emotions and periods than most bands ever get a chance at. Fortunately for Jeff Tweedy and his fans, the frontman of Wilco is talented and well versed, making him the perfect man to face such a challenge.
To be fair, Tweedy did not go on stage Friday evening at the Boulder Theater with one guitar; he went on with six of them circled around him in a horseshoe like a council of elders. At the end of every song, Tweedy would carefully preen his flock of acoustics, selecting only the most appropriate for the next task.
With Wilco’s most recent album release a distant year and a half ago, Tweedy was free to diversify his repertoire to whatever fit his fancy, leading to a set list which accurately encapsulated essential aspects of Tweedy’s career. From songs like "Via Chicago" off 1999’s Wilco album, Summerteeth to "Impossible Germany" from the more recent Wilco project Sky Blue Sky, Tweedy serenaded the audience with a plethora of his work. Tweedy even ended the evening on “California Stars” from Wilco’s late-’90s collaboration with Billy Bragg on the Mermaid Avenue recordings. The only thing more impressive than his choices was his dedication to them.
The result: utter captivation. Tweedy’s presence in a rowdy hall of stoned Boulderites was shockingly powerful both during his songs and in between them. Silence reigned supreme in his performances, with precious subtle chords ripping through the awestruck crowd. Each song emoted timelessness and cemented Tweedy in the hearts of the audience.
Not that Tweedy really needed to; his crowd is obviously composed of die-hard Wilco and Uncle Tupelo fanatics. They shout out requests in increasing obscurity and urgency and reference events from Tweedy’s past. One fan asks how Tweedy’s recent vacation in Mexico was.
And Tweedy is nothing but his charming self in return. His banter is personal yet interactive, giving everyone in the crowd something to feed on. His humor is observational and calm, but it sparks a kinetic movement in the crowd. In a room full of drunk stoners, Tweedy convinces everyone that he has the funniest jokes to go with the best songs.