LouFest headliner Wilco is no stranger to St. Louis. With roots across the river in Belleville, Illinois, the group has performed in just about every venue in the region. Hell, to celebrate the inaugural LouFest several years ago, Mayor Francis Slay even proclaimed August 29, 2010, to be "Jeff Tweedy Day," and the prodigal son played a charming early-evening solo set -- half of which we missed because our then-boyfriend dragged us across the field to stake out optimal spots for gawking at stupid Zooey Deschnanel while she performed with M. Ward as She & Him. Not that we're bitter or anything.
See Also: Our Complete LouFest 2013 Coverage
Anyway, our point is that Tweedy and St. Louis have a special relationship. And while Tweedy didn't chat a ton during Wilco's headlining set during day one of LouFest last night, he still made it pretty clear with props to his family and the late Bob Reuter that the Gateway City holds a distinguished place in his heart.
Surprisingly, Tweedy didn't wear any of his elaborate bedazzled jackets (exhibit A, exhibit B) for the show. Instead, he matched the melancholy mood that a light rain was bringing and opted for black pants, a black jacket and a T-shirt featuring KSHE (94.7 FM) porcine mascot (In the merch tent, Wilco was selling a shirt with a similar oinker -- about which KSHE and its fans are crying foul). Bathed in blue light and eschewing chatter, the band launched into a stormy "Misunderstood," complete with 24 utterings of "nothin'" at the end.
Masterful guitarist Nels Cline brought some extra country twang to "Forget the Flowers," needling, plucking and picking until Tweedy couldn't help but grin toward the end. And the voices of Tweedy, bassist John Stirratt and multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone combined in exceptional harmony for "Give Back the Key to My Heart."
With the sky growing darker and a continuous sprinkle of rain threatening to derail the LouFest fun, it was the perfect time to go into a moodier-than-usual "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart." The crowd perked up to an ecstatic level and remained there for the rest of the night, with a group of douchebags violently rushing through the audience to the stage and a hippie girl beside me dancing with her hands above her in prayer like that chick from Prince's "7" video. Wilco worshippers roared as strobe lights complimented Glenn Kotche's percussion and Cline's electronic thunder.
Under the brooding sky, "Art of Almost" from 2011's The Whole Love took on a peculiar dreams-in-space quality that easily could replace Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight" if someone decided to finance a Risky Business remake. Despite the song being a seven-minute progressive-rock jam, the crowd didn't tire of clapping and twirling. The mood perked up even more when the band played "I Might," with Tweedy and the gang happily bouncing around as hard as the audience was.
Concertgoers were tranquil, and a solitary guy held up a lighter for a gentle "Via Chicago" until Wilco deployed strobe thunder again. Frat boys around me erupted into Arsenio Hall-like woof-woof-woofs. Tweedy must have liked the reaction, as he finally addressed the crowd after the song. "How's it going, St. Louis? Man, it's good to be so close to home."
Having done his duty with a few words, Tweedy began "Handshake Drugs," which prompted one lady to scream and wave around her Kanye-like sunglasses that were fashioned with red, blue and green lights. Wilco followed that up with "Impossible Germany," another long missive that satisfied a nearby dude who had been screaming for the song ALL FREAKING NIGHT. Bewilderingly, a young couple chose this opportunity to nuzzle and slow dance. Yeah, we didn't get it, either. In any case, Cline nailed the shit out of his solo, his necklace bouncing as he whammied like mad.
Continue for tributes to Bob Reuter and the Tweedy family, as well as the setlist.
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