Wilco Take Kings Theatre to Space on Friday NightFebruary 8th, 2016
Wilco – Kings Theatre – February 5, 2016
Wilco should be feeling a whole lot of love from the Empire State this week because the band had one hell of a New York run last week, including four sold-out shows (two in Port Chester’s Capital Theatre, two in Brooklyn’s Kings Theatre) and a performance of “Random Name Generator” on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert—Jeff Tweedy even lulled Colbert to sleep with a lullaby. Friday’s show at Kings Theatre was one part Star Wars, one part a selection of fan favorites and one part an acoustic encore, capped off with a moving sing-along tribute to David Bowie to close the inspired performance.
Star Wars, Wilco’s surprise 2015 release, has been crafted into live perfection at this point. The band’s performed the album in its entirety every night of the tour and added some welcomed embellishments to it. The angular riffs of album-opener “More” kicked off the night. “You Satellite” hit the high-water mark of intensity during this part of the set, swirling around an atmosphere of beautifully noisy guitar wails, complete with the band in front of a shape-shifting starry backdrop. It’s hard to understate just how central guitarist Nels Cline has become to Wilco’s live shows. Two moments in particular stuck out as unleash-the-Nels parts of the night, with searing guitar solos on “Impossible Germany” and “Art of Almost” lighting each song on fire.
Although Wilco found their groove long ago and now wholly own it, that doesn’t allow room for complacency. Instead, it seems to have just given them even more permission to rework their songs, revealing new ways to showcase their song craft. If there ever were a mission statement for the band, this has always been it, and as good of a reason as any to see them live again and again. This was especially on display during their acoustic encore, begun with the softly played “Misunderstood,” a song just as striking in its bare-bones form as it is in its noisier studio incarnation. There was something especially fun about the audience quietly and gently singing along to the usually loud and abrasive refrains of “I’d like to thank you all for nothing at all!” “I’m Always in Love” and the always-haunting “A Shot in the Arm” followed, before the show concluded with a beautiful moment, a cover of Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” made even more beautiful by the grandeur of Kings Theatre and every living soul in the venue singing along. What better way to end a night of the Star Wars tour than with a hat tip to an artist who spent his life pulling down songs from the cosmos. —Dan Rickershauser | @D4nRicks