The Hollywood Palladium
January 24, 2012
Hearing a fedora-ed Jeff Tweedy wax poetic about the word “pussy” might go down as some kind of live music highlight of my life.
A straight-faced Tweedy paused at the mic at some point after “War on War” and shared that the band had just watched a program on Sammy Hagar–and only then did Tweedy realize that he had never said the word “pussy” on stage.
“Except,” he says, “For now.”
He pauses again: “So: 'Pussy.'”
“Only when [Hagar] says it, it's more like 'PUSSSSAAAY!' Which is a lot more enthusiastic,” Tweedy remarks. “I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders.”
The show at the Palladium kicked off three sold-out nights in Los Angeles. And even though I have this ongoing theory that Tweedy secretly (or not) detests this place (and as a recent re-transplant: totally understandable), it was nice to finally have them back in Southern California.
Wilco let us know what kind of night we were in for with their brow-raising, haunting opening number, “Art of Almost,” the first track off their latest album, The Whole Love. Boasting those signature Tweedy lyrics of torment (“No!/I froze/I can't be so/Far away from my wasteland/I never know when I might/Ambulance/Hoist the horns with my own hands/Almost/Almost”), the song's a slow burner, starting quiet and down-tempo, and eventually snowballing into a volatile Nels Cline jam session–all punctuated with strobe lights and splashes of infrared color projected on hundreds of artfully wadded pieces of cloth hanging from the rafters like a sea of jelly fish.
If audience members were there to hear 80 percent of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, they didn't get it: While the set list was a career-spanning one, it also unabashedly skipped a majority of the perennial fan favorites off the landmark record, choosing instead to sprinkle a number of tried-and-trues in between the unexpected, even ramping up the normally hushed “Via Chicago” with flecks of outbursts of perfectly timed noise.
While Tweedy remained rather stoic until four songs deep into the
two-hour set, he soon quipped in with his usual endearing storytelling:
How the drum intro to “I Must Be High” sounds like a sing-song “Heyyy,
you, what's for lunch?”; how pitting the loudness of different sections
of the audience is beneath Wilco; “pusssaaaay.”
Welcome back to Los Angeles, Wilco. We missed you.
The Crowd: Lots of fathers with their young sons. The kid to the right of me looked like a mini Graham Coxon. Cuuuute.
Overheard: Girl: “Which one is Nels Cline?” Guy: “The one that's like, seven-foot tall. Fraaaaaankuuuhnnsteeein.”
Random Notebook Dump: Are leather hoodies a thing now?
Art of Almost
Bull Black Nova
At Least That's What You Said
I Got You (At the End of the Century)
You Are My Face
I Must Be High
I'm Always in Love
War on War
Dawned On Me
A Shot In the Arm
Outta Mind (Outta Sight)
The Lonely One