WXRT MC Marty Lennartz gave a prescient summation of the event just before Wilco took the stage, asking 15-thousand fans packing the Fifth Third Bank Ballpark in Geneva, Illinois, “could this be a more perfect night?” On a gorgeous evening with Wilco, in peak form, playing a live broadcast for WXRT’s 4D Celebration, indeed this was about as good as it gets.
Wilco played a whole lot from 2011’s The Whole Love, giving those who missed the band’s small venue performances last December a first chance to hear live, in all their glory, songs like “Dawned on Me” and “I Might.” With an ever-deepening catalog, the band had ample opportunity to revisit favorites like “Shot in the Arm,” and “Handshake Drugs.” Andrew Bird, who thrilled the crowd before Wilco’s set, returned to add some violin magic to a couple of songs including “Jesus Etc.” As a birthday shout out to folk legend Woody Guthrie, Wilco played “California Stars” and the show-ending rocker “Hoodoo Voodoo,” from the Mermaid Avenue project.
Like perfectly shaped keys in locks, each band member helped to open songs to new possibilities. Jeff Tweedy’s warm, melancholy vocal started “Via Chicago,” but the song ended in a flashing blue electrical storm. After the dust settled on Nels Cline’s soaring solo on “Impossible Germany,” Jeff Tweedy was moved to say “not only can he play the guitar like that, he smells good, too…sometimes.” Such a lighthearted remark, following such frenzied, brilliant playing from the band, is typical of Tweedy’s scruffy, disarming charm.
Wilco says this was its biggest headlining show to date. It was full of people sporting all kinds of Wilco T-shirts, beer drinkers, hot dog eaters, kids, dancers, and even people who raised sparklers instead of smartphones before encores. Well, why not, as the whole shebang ended with a gigantic fireworks display.