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Review: Wilco at Carnegie Music Hall, Pittsburgh

April 12, 2010 - Andy Gray

Wilco is in its 16th year as a band. With seven studio albums (one a two-disc set) to draw from, how does it make room for all of the old favorites and still promote the latest disc?

Well, if you’re Wilco, the answer seems to be just make the show longer. A band that used to seem content to play 100-minute shows has been playing nearly twice that on its "An Evening with Wilco" tour, which wrapped Sunday with a concert at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Music Hall. Lead singer Jeff Tweedy has dubbed it the "Leave Them Wanting Less" tour.

The band played 39 songs in a three-hour set (no intermission) for a sold-out crowd. Fans got to hear most of the 2009 release "Wilco (the Album)" while still getting at least two songs from every other Wilco disc, a couple tracks from the band’s "Mermaid Avenue"/Woody Guthrie collaborations with Billy Bragg and a cover of Alex Chilton’s "Thank You Friends" in memory of his death last month.

The band didn’t even take a break as it segued into a more-acoustic set in the middle of the show. The stage crew, racing around like it was in the pits at Talladega, set up a scaled down drum kit, lamps and other accoutrements during a feedback-fueled closing to "Poor Places," and the crew switched the set back just as fast while Tweedy played "Airline to Heaven" on acoustic guitar.

Of course, even a Wilco "unplugged" set features Nels Cline raking what looked like a metal bedspring along the neck of his guitar on "War on War." Cline’s instruments take a beating as he coaxes magical sounds from a collection of guitars using an assortment of implements, none more impressive than the long fingers of his left hand, which seem capable of spanning about eight frets simultaneously.

The show had that loose, end-of-the-tour feel with the occasional misstep – drummer Glenn Kotche starting "You Never Know" instead of "Box Full of Letters," a malfunctioning piece of equipment to open "Heavy Metal Drummer" – provoking good-natured ribbing rather than anger. Tweedy only got a little testy at some chattering during the acoustic set, and he dedicated "Some Morning, Sometime" to "the people who don’t have $50 to throw away on a concert they aren’t paying attention to."

Wilco intentionally booked smaller venues for this "An Evening with …" tour, and I don’t know if it will revert back to having an opening act and playing a two-hour set on its next trek. But fans couldn’t have asked for a better bounty on Sunday.


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