Wilco / Bahamas National Arts Centre, Ottawa, ON March 1
Published Mar 03, 2010On the second-last stop in their "Trans Canada" tour, art-country heavyweights Wilco paid a visit to the raucous and still Olympic-drunk crowd at Ottawa's elegant National Arts Centre.
Replacing fellow Chicagoans Califone in the supporting slot, Toronto's Afie Jurvanen (aka Bahamas) did much to transform the crowd's eagerness into adoration. Demonstrating his sharp wit and buttery delivery, the former Jason Collett and Feist guitarist cradled hovering melodies with an impressively spacious, angular and jazzy guitar tone that was rewarded with a bevy of applause and shouts of "come back soon!"
Overloading the stage with effect pedals, instruments and stand-alone light fixtures, Wilco promptly matched the visual cacophony with claustrophobic renditions of new tracks like "Wilco (The Song)" and "Bull Black Nova," all while sending a sharp message that the night's performance would be more than a merry run-through of the band's most recognized material.
Fearlessly, Wilco cranked the effects to eleven, pelting tracks like "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart" and "Reservations" with crumbling guitar distortion, whining sound effects and plummeting drums fills. Presenting the crowd with that rare amalgamation of confidence-fuelled control and wild abandon, front-man Jeff Tweedy managed to woo the fans with a smattering of rare material ("Blue Eyed Soul" from A.M. and "California Stars" from Mermaid Avenue), a full-bodied set (25 songs at over two hours) and a number of Olympic hockey references ("You seem to be in a good mood tonight. Did you just win a big sporting event or something?"). But it was Nels Cline's absolute bonkers guitar shredding, highlighted in songs like "Side with the Seed" and "Impossible Germany," that finally brought the crowd to its feet.
After a massive encore that included a cover of Neil Young's "Broken Arrow," Wilco gave the audience a rare three-dimensional glimpse into a catalogue so many swore they knew inside-out.