|Jeff Tweedy and Wilco delivered another exciting show for their fans in Toronto. (QMI Agency file photo)
TORONTO - When a band has six musicians who play with a jazz mindset inside the confines of rock, you often have a clash of egos or a horrid sonic experiment gone awry to rot in a vault.
Or you end up with Wilco who pushed the envelope and showed their excellence for the umpteenth time in Toronto Friday night at a nearly sold-out Massey Hall, the first of two gigs at the famed venue.
Having streamed their new album The Whole Love online a few weeks back – and with the record officially out Sept. 27 – the Chicago band led by Jeff Tweedy went against the traditional rock song formula grain to near perfection during a 22-song, 110 minute set.
This despite the fact some might have been wondering if the sextet had lost the plot with the first offering Art Of Almost, a song that initially sounds like Jeff Tweedy fronting Depeche Mode. Yet by song's end some six or seven minutes later, the wall of guitar Tweedy, guitarists Nels Cline and Pat Sansone created was loud but purposeful.
For nearly every hard, edgy and relentless burst of brawn on Bull Black Nova or the sporadically thunderous Via Chicago (thanks to drummer Glen Kotche), Wilco would come up with gentle gems like One Wing or She's A Jar, the latter being the a highlight for one reason: Tweedy.
Following the first verse, the singer had a lapse and forgot the lyrics, trying to stall to find his place. “I forgot the words again, it's been a long time,” Tweedy said before asking the crowd the next line. Tweedy called one fan a “dummy” when they shouted a line that was already performed before bassist John Stirratt set the ship right again.
“It's a special night, Toronto,” Tweedy said afterwards of the mistake.
Aside from the humourous miscue, Wilco were stellar on several tracks including the new material such as Born Alone, the early Elvis Costello-ish I Might and Dawned On Me. They also earned their keep on Impossible Germany, the crowd-pleaser Handshake Drugs and Poor Places whose coda resembled The Beatles' A Day In The Life epic ending.
Asking fans who would be back for night two, Tweedy and his cohorts closed the main set with A Shot In The Arm before the country-tinged The Late Greats and I'm The Man Who Loves You highlighted the encore.
Opening for Wilco was the iconic Nick Lowe. With at least three or possibly four members of Wilco watching sidestage for his entire set, Lowe ran through just a pinch of his mammoth catalogue of well-crafted material with ridiculous ease. Alone with acoustic guitar, Lowe doled out some signatures like Cruel To Be Kind, When I Write The Book, Ragin' Eyes, (What's So Funny 'bout) Peace, Love and Understanding) along with new thoughtful works like Stoplight Roses and I Read A Lot.
Art Of Almost
I Am Trying To Break Your Heart
Bull Black Nova
She's A Jar
Dawned On Me
War On War
A Shot In The Arm
The Late Greats
Red-Eyed And Blue
I Got You (At The End Of The Century)
I'm The Man Who Loves You