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Too much of Wilco is not enough

Hamer Hall, March 27

Wilco have been around for almost 20 years and eight studio albums, so perhaps could be forgiven for making a slow start to Wednesday night's show at Hamer Hall. Singer and songwriter Jeff Tweedy shuffled on stage hunched, looking weary and dishevelled. The six piece opened with the gentle, rambling One Sunday Morning from their latest album. While it sounded fine, it didn't help to build the energy in the room.

The explosive Art of Almost and the rollicking I Might lifted things, but it wasn't until lead guitarist Nels Cline's electrifying solo on Impossible Germany (which seems to get longer every tour) that the audience came alive and the band finally seemed to start enjoying themselves.

And Tweedy, who had said nothing but a quiet “Thank you” to the audience to that point, opened up and began to joke around with the crowd, making special mention of the two other big stars in town this week - Bruce Springsteen and Ellen DeGeneres.

From there, it was business as usual for Wilco, who changed up a gear and started living up to their reputation as one of the best live bands in the world.

The set covered songs from across their career, including five tracks from the band's most celebrated album, 2002's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

Hamer Hall, while acoustically pleasing, doesn't lend itself to a rock band and a crowd wanting to let loose. It wasn't until the encore, when the crowd got to its feet and remained standing for the final songs, that the energy on stage could be felt in the audience.

The Hall also seems to have put the band on a curfew - a two-hour set is long for most bands, but by Wilco's standards this was short. A sneak peek at the set list revealed six songs had to be ditched. If it seems churlish to complain, it probably is - but for many Wilco fans, myself included, too much is not enough.