Wilco played at the Paramount with White Denim on Tuesday, February 7, 2012. Photo by Laura Musselman.


White Denim

The Paramount

Tuesday, February 7,


Wilco: Still Loves You, Still Trying to Break Your Heart at the Paramount

Wilco played at the Paramount with White Denim on Tuesday, February 7, 2012. Photo by Laura Musselman.


White Denim

The Paramount

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Through most of the early 1980's, Fernando Valenzuela was a force of nature, as well as a pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He had an unusually chaotic wind-up, involving his eyes rolling up toward the heavens just before releasing a pitch. Valenzuela claimed that, during this particular part of his wind-up, he was actually breathing through his eyelids, much like the fabled lava lizards of the Galapagos Islands. While the band that showed up at the Paramount on Tuesday night weren't claiming to breathe through their eyelids (although their wind-up is often equally as unique), they were doing their best from the first note to get the audience to breathe through their ears.

Oh, believe me. I know it sounds like a bunch of hyperbolic hooey. This was my 12th time to see Wilco (starting with a particular raucous, deli-tray tossing show during the Being There days), and I had an entire diatribe all sketched up in my brain about how we've seen Wilco's finest days pass, how Jeff Tweedy only writes two types of songs anymore (children's sing-alongs or meandering 9 minute long, 2-note sonic explorations that never have any thoughtful progression of them), how predictably middle-of-the-road "Dad rock" the band has become at times.

I never really connected with The Whole Love as an album, and was fully prepared to go into my full-on salty Seattle stance, icy glare in my eyes and arms crossed, and dress the band down for their shortcomings. About a minute into the gentle, chiming rambling of "One Sunday Morning", I dropped my crossed arms and the ice melted off of me. I let down my guard, opened my ears to their fresh air, and was fully reminded of why Wilco is such an incredible band.

Sure, those shortcomings were still there; the set opened up with some of the longest songs in the Wilco catalog (the first 35 minutes of the set were taken up by 5 songs). On record, songs like "Art of Almost" and "Bull Black Nova" have a tendency to drag on with clumsy attempts at dynamic movements. Live, it's hard to not fall into the groove, captured by the band's mannerisms (namely, guitarist Nels Cline's orgasmic freakouts) and the band's pristine stage presentation. This go-round, the band was flanked on all sides by hundreds of dangling ropes, knotted with handkerchiefs. Throughout the set, colorful movies were projected atop the hanging kerchiefs and band, giving the boxy stage the feeling of fluid formlessness that could melt into the ground or fly away at any minute.

Wilco's Pat Sansone, John Stirratt, and Jeff Tweedy. Photo by Dave Lake.

And sure, their show is a testament to great stage presentation, but without those songs, a Wilco show wouldn't be so transcendent. The band played a well-balanced set of hits from all eras of Wilco (even dipping into A.M. for "Shouldn't Be Ashamed" and Summerteeth's seldom heard "Candyfloss"), and never felt like they were focusing too hard on solely promoting The Whole Love. Over the course of their two hour set, Wilco was perfectly mixed, and you could feel the buzzing drones, goofy trills and integrated interplay with the guitars of keyboardists Mikael Jorgenson and Pat Sansone more than ever. While "Impossible Germany" has become a live staple for the band, guitarist Cline's take on the open-ended solo is always the most stunning moment of the set, and he manages to drop so many strangely beautiful notes into his time in the spotlight. Watching frontman Jeff Tweedy step back to strum his part and lovingly watch Cline build up worlds only to tear them down during "Germany", it's easy to see this band has likely grown past mere "band" status and into something of a curated traveling mutual admiration society between incredible players.

Openers White Denim were a perfect companion piece to the evening. Bordering somewhere between Allman Brothers style boogie-rock and the sophisticated math/funk-isms of Bill Dolan (Five Style/Heroic Doses), White Denim made the most of their all-too-brief 30 minute set; guitarist Austin Jenkins looked to be one of the few humans who could give Nels Cline a run for his money (get those two on stage together and things might explode) and singer James Petrelli spent every non-singing moment noodling with equal prowess or just staring into the crowd, smiling his ever-lovin' head off, as if saying "Isn't this a friggin' blast?".

The crowd: Lots of dads, lots of guys who like to yell "WOO!", and lots of dads who also like to yell "WOO!". At this point in the game, my professional advice to Wilco: change your name to "WOO!".

Wilco Set List:

One Sunday Morning

Poor Places

Art of Almost

I Might

Bull Black Nova

Company In My Back

I Am Trying To Break Your Heart


Impossible Germany

Born Alone

Laminated Cat

Shouldn't Be Ashamed

Whole Love

Heavy Metal Drummer

I'm The Man Who Loves You

Standing O


Dawned On Me

A Shot In The Arm



War On War


Red Eyed and Blue

I Got You


White Denim Set List:

Street Joy

Anvil Everything



It's Him

Bess St.

No Real Reason

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