Review: Wilco at the Fillmore Miami Beach

By Alexandra Leon

First published on May 16, 2012 for

Two years after the band’s last appearance in Miami, Wilco returned for an electrifying, 27-song, two-hour marathon at the Fillmore Miami Beach.

Openers Purling Hiss from Philadelphia set the stage for a high-energy night with their own brand of guitar-driven ’90s alt-rock. They began with one of their more subdued tracks, “Voices”, a lazy summer-day rocker from their six-song EP Lounge Lizards. Yet, by the end of a seven-song set, the trio was in full-on jam mode with the screeching guitar solos from “Run from the City” earning a modest roar from the crowd.

Then Wilco came on, and the roar reached a new level.

The start of their set is best described as just plain pretty. The band started with “One Sunday Morning”, a twelve-minute track from their 2011 album, The Whole Love, as a projector shone golden light on vines made of white cloth that hung from the ceiling. Drops of white light fell down from the vines onto the band while they bounced soft, clear notes across the stage, leaving the audience utterly still and silent.

In an instant the atmosphere would change as they progressed into a new song, each with its own mood, light display, and color scheme. For the dark electronic soundscape of “The Art of Almost”, the stage burned with deep purples, reds, and greens as blinding floodlights in the back flashed with each pulsing guitar stroke or drum beat. White branches of light were replaced by pools of red for “A Shot in the Arm” as frontman Jeff Tweedy sang “something in my veins, bloodier than blood.” And a light purple glow took over the stage for the mellow “Jesus, Etc.”

Wilco racked up their inventory from their 18-year tenure for an all-ages crowd that bobbed and sang along to almost every song. Tweedy’s exchanges with the crowd were light-hearted and well-received, and he even joked he wet his pants being in Miami … because of the humidity of course. The band came back for two encores to a pleading crowd, with Tweedy saying they only come back when the crowd is at its lowest ebb, drawing even more cheers and applause.

With each encore the band became more and more frenzied. The slow and subtle distortion behind “Via Chicago” was replaced by jarring heavy metal riffs and chaotic bangs from guitarist Nels Cline and drummer Glenn Kotche as Tweedy kept singing and playing the song’s mellow tune in the background. During another frantic, distorted swell after “Theologians”, Cline Kotche stood up on his drum set, silhouetted against a white spotlight. According to Tweedy: “Glenn stood on his drums tonight because a young woman asked him to because she claims it is the most beautiful thing she’s seen. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.”

Then there was the shirtless, jean-clad, cowbell playing sensation dancing around the stage during “Hoodoo Voodo” to round out a perfect finish.