The first of three WTTS Rock to Read benefit concerts took place last night at the Indiana University Auditorium in Bloomington. A longtime WTTS favorite artist, Wilco, took the stage to an auditorium of over 3,000 fans that would soon be mesmerized.
Wilco formed in 1994 as an alternative rock/alternative country band in Chicago. Since their formation, the music has grown and morphed with the band. Frontman Jeff Tweedy led his bandmates in what seemed like three different shows of the evening. It was organized, thorough, and brilliant. Nashville based singer-songwriter William Tyler opened for Wilco and provided an ethereal display of atmospheric sounds that were impressively produced from distorted guitars and a looper pedal.
The evening began with a collection of songs from Wilco’s latest album, Star Wars. The album was released for free on the band’s website in July of 2015. The stage was saturated with small light bulbs from end to end and the lights displayed all kinds of moving colors throughout the show to set the mood of each song. Most of the lighting tended to be blue and purple; This gave a sort of spooky feel given the season and the hypnotic nature of Wilco’s music. It seemed almost like a Rock ‘n’ Roll Lite-Brite toy (though I’m sure much more expensive). During this first part of the show, Wilco played “Random Name Generator” among other new tracks that definitely got the audience buzzing and excited for whatever was to come next. The harmonies were haunting, the drum solo was incredible, and the audience was convinced of Star Wars’ gravity (pun intended).
After a handful of songs, Tweedy vocally thanked the audience for listening to Star Wars and declared they would move on to other albums. They began this segment with “Either Way,” which was clearly a crowd favorite. Other highlights included “Handshake Drugs,” “Hummingbird,” and “Impossible Germany.” “Art of Almost” was an epic, visual and sonic rainbow and proved to not only please the crowd, but absolutely “wow” it. During this set of older music, “Box Full of Letters” provided some banter between Tweedy and his audience. When Tweedy announced that the next song was from their first album, the crowd cheered. He then retorted, “Aw, you guys didn’t like it then” in true Jeff Tweedy fashion. After the song was over, an audience member shouted, “Play more of that!” Tweedy only used his hands to perfectly respond to the man and the audience broke out in laughter.
After a short, one-song encore, the band returned looking a little different. They all gathered near the front of the stage, mostly seated, with acoustic instruments. They looked like they might be in a friend’s living room giving a private performance. That’s just what this portion of the show was: intimate. This rare six-song encore was really more of a bonus feature on a film. The audience was introduced to the songwriter version of Wilco, which is just as beautiful as their captivating, harder jams. They played “Misunderstood,” “Bull Black Nova,” “It’s Just That Simple,” “Jesus, Etc.,” California Stars,” and “A Shot in the Arm.” It may be hard to picture, but between the rock-songs-turned-acoustic and the change of lead singer during one of these songs, the crowd remained silent. They were stunned into this silence during each song, unless they were quietly singing and humming along, beautifully.
Wilco treated the audience to a full range of shows, taking a trip through their history without sounding stale and nostalgic. This show was a true testament to the diversity and sheer talent this band continues to possess, and their ability to hypnotize an entire hall full of people using their music.
We are proud to have had them play the first WTTS Rock to Read benefit concert of 2015 presented by Jockamo Uppercrust Pizza. All proceeds from these shows contribute to children’s reading programs throughout Indianapolis and surrounding areas. Be sure to get your tickets for one or both of the next WTTS Rock to Read shows, John Hiatt and Lyle Lovett on October 20th and Guster on November 13th. You won’t want to miss them.