Scene: A balmy and breezeless summer night at a minor league baseball stadium on the rim of the Delaware River. There are tendrils of happy smoke carrying the smell of hot dogs on makeshift grills. Thirtysomethings do their best to align themselves with the charm of the parking lot. Hacky sacks are in flight, and laughter is the soundtrack. It is time for a Wilco show.
Suddenly, from inside the stadium the familiar theme to The Price is Right blares through the speaker towers and the queue hustles through. Jeff Tweedy and the rest of Wilco break the crowd in with the new “Wilco (The Song),” a midtempo churner that doubles as a self-help P.S.A. with the melody being the cure to what ails you.
Over the next hour and a half, the band dispersed many remedies to mental injuries caused by rock mediocrity with a stellar set of career-spanning bullet points like “Shot in the Arm,” “Handshake Drugs” and “Misunderstood.” The setlist was peppered with songs from the just-released Wilco (The Album) including the sonic frenzy of “Bull Black Nova,” a murderous romp of a song with blasts of keyboard pounded out like a racing heartbeat, as well as the gorgeous “One Wing,” a hopeful tome tuned to togetherness.
Tweedy seemed more like a big brother than a band leader at times, never holding back on sarcastic wit or advice with his banter. When he spotted a chap twirling sparklers in the thick of the crowd, he quipped, “You might just get kicked out if you keep doing that. Just looking out for you bro, got your back!”
With the snappy jazz thump of Glen Kotchke on drums and Nels Kline on guitar, there is an often sudden but pleasant ricochet between warm twang and spastic fury while the band mimics a laid-back simplicity. These special complexities layered around pure poetry unwind while nobody misses a note.
The crowd seemed to be well-versed and willing as the sextet veered into astral jams in the midst of folked-out strum-alongs like “Impossible Germany” and “Walken,” even though these gentlemen would never fit on any “jam band” list. Wilco are a rolling remedy for the dog days of summer. On this night, blanketed in stars, every song was a singalong and every mood was lifted comfortably.