Rumsey Playground, Central Park
New York, NY
September 22, 2011
Nels Cline can conjure wind. He did so mid-way through the third song of Wilco's performance in New York City on September 22. There were several thousand witnesses.
Cline, Wilco's guitarist-cum-audio mad scientist, was at the crest of an intense solo passage in "Ashes of American Flags" when a strong, crisp breeze blew in from the East, lifting the blanket of early evening humidity that was laid over the crowd gathered in Central Park's Rumsey Playground. Wilco is a live band of such extraordinary powers that a supernatural act of meteorological manipulation seems well within their grasp. Cline's was greeted with an appreciative roar from the devoted crowd.
In 2000, when Wilco was still playing clubs behind their then-current record, Summerteeth, the band's sound was an easy-to-digest gumbo of all that came before: the ramshackle power pop song writing of Big Star; the psychedelic country of the Byrds; the arena rock of mid-period Who. Those strains are still evident, but in the intervening decade-plus they have been joined by hints of Sonic Youth, Kraftwerk and other electronic noise elements. Incredibly, Wilco has never veered too far into experimental territory. They've pushed the boundaries of pop, but there are no throwaway records. Perhaps using the model of The Beatles, Wilco leader and songsmith Jeff Tweedy has managed to keep Wilco about the songs, using technology and noise as spicy embellishments, not the main dish. The result is a book of songs equally at home channeled through a seven-piece electric band as through an acoustic guitar on Tweedy's not- infrequent solo jaunts.