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Wilco a crowd-pleaser at the Paramount
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Wilco a crowd-pleaser at the Paramount

by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

Wilco
February 10
Paramount Theatre


Not that Wilco was ever a bad rock group, but I remember seeing them in their college circuit days and I didn't quite get the reason for their popularity, nor did I understand their true sound. But over the years, the Chicago-based sextet has developed into one of the leaders of the roots-Americana scene, and is regarded by some as the best rock band around. At the Paramount Theatre on February 10, they proved their worth.

The Grammy-winning outfit pulled an assortment of music from their 15-year portfolio, including early run-throughs of "A Shot in the Arm" off 1999's Summerteeth and "Bull Black Nova" from last year's self-titled album. Lead singer Jeff Tweedy has physically aged, but has also matured beautifully as a vocalist; he sounded incredible on "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart."

In between songs, fans shouted messages out to Wilco from as far up as the second and third balconies. When one guy yelled out, "We missed you!" Tweedy quickly shouted back, "We missed you, too!"

"I'll Fight" and "Impossible Germany" were two highlights of the performance, each showcasing the brilliant collaboration of vocals and arrangements that sets Wilco apart from other groups. I wasn't particularly crazy about "Handshake Drugs" and would've opted for another number from 2002's brilliant Yankee Hotel Foxtrot - speaking of which, Tweedy allowed the crowd to sing nearly every word of "Jesus, Etc.," from that album, before joining in at the end.

"That was really, really good," Tweedy exclaimed as a compliment to concertgoers. "We don't say that in every city." To that, a diehard fan next to me said, "No, you don't."

A great rendition of "Theologians" was thrown in the second half of the show, as was a fierce version of "Hate It Here." Wilco ended the main set with "Hummingbird," an obvious huge favorite of the crowd, who by this time had formed little choir groups and dance circles on the first level of the theatre.

No one made a dash for the exits before the encore. Instead, everyone stuck around and cheered loudly for Wilco's return. Tweedy and company roared back with an extensive finale that included the gorgeous "Via Chicago," an ode to their hometown, and the very upbeat "You Never Know," the lone single off the latest album.

Wilco jammed for two solid hours, and then some. They weren't just impressive; they were in peak form. While I didn't come close to knowing every lick to each song, as many others did, I definitely left the concert owing this group more of my respect.

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