Nine songs into one of the best shows the Orpheum has ever hosted, Wilco's Jeff Tweedy finally spoke to his rapt audience, most of whom had been on their feet from the moment the band took the stage. He spontaneously congratulated one couple on their engagement and guessed that another guy had recently lost a pet, jokingly explaining to the crowd that he was psychic.
Well, he might be. There's really no other way to explain how eerily prescient the band's set list proved to be for one disastrous relationship that imploded in halting highs and lows, distractingly, publicly, in the front row throughout Wilco's career-spanning two-hour set.
The drama began about 15 minutes before Tweedy and crew hit the stage, when some kind of argument -- the woman was furious, the man was attempting to cajole her into good spirits, it seemed -- escalated, and the woman suddenly slapped the man across the face. She stormed out and it seemed perhaps the drama was over before it began. Sadly, she came back just as the house lights dimmed and the overhead lights illuminated the beautiful stage design -- long ropes of knotted white cloths that looked like miniature homemade ghost costumes hanging in rows and rows.
The band opened with the beautiful Whole Love weeper "One Sunday Morning (Song for Jane Smiley's Boyfriend)." As Tweedy sang the chorus, "Outside I look lived in / Like the bones in a shrine / How am I forgiven? / Oh, I'll give it time," the man mouthed along, attempting to put his arm around the woman's shoulder, only to have her eventually shrug him off angrily. This continued through a stunning version of "Poor Places" and a psychedelic light display for the psych-rocking "Art of Almost," followed by the peppy, almost joyful "I Might."
As the couple's fighting continued, the band moved onto one of their biggest hits, "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart," with the whole audience belting along with the soaring chorus. Tweedy's lyrical poignancy increased on the heart-breaking "Radio Cure" -- "All distance has a way of making love understandable" -- and the fight got physical again as the woman pushed the man about four feet and stormed over to security. After an intense discussion, which Tweedy seemed to watch out of the corner of his eye while he jammed on the guitar, security left them both where they were and Wilco kicked up the beat.
There was a little country edge of "Born Alone" before the band made their way to the stirring "I'll Fight," with Tweedy promising, "I'll fight, I'll fight, I'll fight, I'll fight for you / I'll kill, I'll kill, I'll kill, I'll kill for you / I will, I will, I will," and of course the man sang along while the woman shooed him away. When Wilco busted out "Via Chicago" and Tweedy sang, "I dreamed about killing you again last night / And it felt all right to me," he seemed to sing it in their direction pointedly, a gleam in his eye and a smile on his lips.
Security came by again for the couple -- and left almost as quickly -- just after Wilco came back for their encore following a thunderous standing ovation. Tweedy turned on his falsetto for a beautiful version of "Whole Love" before segueing into fan favourite "Heavy Metal Drummer." The big, bold finish came courtesy of the crashing crescendo of "Outtasight (Outta Mind)," the perfect end to an amazing show, and a fantastic kiss-off -- hopefully -- to love gone wrong.
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