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Wilco is trying to break your heart

Photo+via%3A+Pabst+Theater+Group
Photo via: Pabst Theater Group

Photo via: Pabst Theater Group

Photo via: Pabst Theater Group

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I wonder what it must feel like to be on the other side of this, down on the stage looking up at all the people who are in love with you?

I’ve loved Wilco for a very long time. I used to think Jeff Tweedy needed me to save him, the way I used to think all tortured musicians needed saving. But Jeff Tweedy is no tortured musician, and Wilco is not like other bands. With 10 studio albums, a rock-umentary, some inner-circle drama and three collaborative projects with Billy Bragg, they’ve got tenure.

After a lifetime of commitment, getting to see them at the Riverside Theatre Sunday, June 18, was a personal bucket list milestone.

The openers, Kacy and Clayton, came out in a lot of denim and played like they were nostalgic for Little House on the Prairie. They were a little bit of blues and a little bit of folk, and the way the guitar whined I could have listened to it all night. But nothing prepared me for the piercing Loretta Lynn vibrato from vocalist Kacy Anderson. In the future, I expect to see these two headlining their own tour.

It’s a loudly spoken rule among hipsters that a band’s older stuff is always their best. No matter if they have 10 albums or two, a true fan must be loyal to the original work. Or so says the hipster credo. And for a band like Wilco, this rule seemed to apply. That is, until the surprise release of their 2015 album, Star Wars, and their subsequent album, Schmilco, from which they played several songs, all sounding like a psychedelic backyard barbecue.

Photo via: Pabst Theater Group

Wilco’s versatility cemented them as genre behemoths, so after a few patient acoustic songs, they turned up the volume and had all of the Riverside Theatre screaming along to “I am Trying to Break your Heart.” They were making it clear: leave your cry-baby indie bummer jams at home, this is a rock concert.

It was not the show I expected. I was excited for intimate acoustic lullabies and weepy sad-boy premonitions, and while I was glad for the ribcage thundering rock and roll, I needed more. Finally, after a handful of 5-minute guitar solos and drum breakdowns, Jeff Tweedy gave me the show I’d come for.

I’ve followed this band for years. I’ve attached my own value to their work and elevated the musicians to celestial heights. But now here they were, a handful of people on a dim stage. It was sobering to sit in the same room and be forced to see them as human, as flawed and failing but remarkable too. Jeff Tweedy was just a guy with a guitar singing in an ethereal whisper, “I’ve got reservations about so many things but not about you.”

And I was just a girl at a show swaying along with everybody else.

The rest of the set was a blur of drum beats and audience hysterics. They gave not one, but two encores. Everyone was on their feet and the man in front of me paced wildly across the aisle with a tiny air guitar and messy grin.

It wasn’t a religious experience. It didn’t change my life or affect me like other shows have. But it was good. Good music, good people, and a good end to the weekend. That’s more what this band is about anyway.

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