The rain can’t stop Wilco. Over its 18 years, the band has had three record labels, hosted 12 members and seen near-self-destruction a few times. But now that the once-volatile group has solidified with its most stable (unchanged since 2004) and arguably best lineup, a little rain was nothing.
It rained almost all day in Cooperstown, so when Wilco fans convened at Brewery Ommegang, just a few miles from the village, the sunny skies were welcome.
Lee Ranaldo Band made it through a dry opening set. The (former?) Sonic Youth guitarist and his touring band got some help from Wilco’s Nels Cline — who was a major contributor to Ranaldo’s last album, Between the Times and the Tides — and Pat Sansone.
Ranaldo’s solo material is much different from his Sonic Youth work. Songs like “Off the Wall” and “Xtina as I Knew Her” emphasized the melodic, but every now and then Ranaldo would crank up the distortion and wail. Most of the band’s 40-minute set featured one or both of the Wilco guests, and it was especially great watching Ranaldo and Cline, two legendary guitarists, feed off each other.
The first half of the set covered everything from the sugary pop of “Hummingbird” and “War on War” to the epic, swirling guitars of Cline, Sansone and Jeff Tweedy on “Impossible Germany” to the slower “Sunken Treasure.” The rain was somehow endearing, but “Either Way” still brought big cheers with its fitting lines “Maybe the sun will shine today, the clouds will roll away.”
Eventually they did, although it was too late for the sun. The second half of the set was even more electrifying than the first, featuring “Kamera” and “Handshake Drugs.” They also managed to fit in a few older ones like “What’s the World Got in Store” and “Box Full of Letters.”
The band was in top form, but when are they not? After the slow “Box Full of Letters,” they suddenly went wild. The set’s coda turned into a rapid-fire sing-a-long. “I’m Always in Love” gave way to the opening drum machine of “Heavy Metal Drummer,” which brought massive cheers. “Drummer” was followed by the unmistakable opening notes of “I’m the Man Who Loves You,” and then they piled on one more: “A Shot in the Arm.”
It was nonstop, and when it seemed like it couldn’t possibly be topped, Wilco came back for two encores.
“Poor Places” started the first. The ending cacophony was carefully reeled in and transitioned perfectly to “The Art of Almost.” Again, the slow build gave way to an eruption of intensity. As the ending notes rang out, there was only a moment of respite before the forceful beginning of “Standing O.”
The second encore gave a bit more of a breather, starting with the unreleased Woody Guthrie song “Airline to Heaven” and “Hate It Here.” But “Can’t Stand It,” despite its mid-tempo speed, was a fist-pumping anthem. They finished with a euphoric three-song suite from Being There: “Red-Eyed and Blue,” “I Got You (At the End of the Century)” and “Outtasite (Outta Mind).”
When they’re on stage, nothing can stop Wilco.
Download the show, courtesy of nyctaper, and see more photos after the jump.
Lee Ranaldo Band