Wilco, Chicago’s greatest musical sons, are back in Italy for two shows including tonight’s gig in Milan, which falls midway into their European tour, primarily to showcase their new and 11th studio album “Ode To Joy”. After a break which allowed Jeff Tweedy to create and perform a couple of solo albums no less, involving his sons in the mix, the band reconvened, enthusiasm and energies in abundance.

A hip, groovy crowd, well represented by both sexes eagerly awaits them tonight in the packed Fabrique hall.
They amble on stage and take up their familiar stage positions, from left to right, Nels Cline on guitars, Mikael Jorgensen on keyboards, Jeff Tweedy guitars and vocals, Glenn Kotche on drums, John Stirratt on bass and Pat Sansone on guitar/keyboards. The band appear comfortable with the crowd and with each other, Jeff having many a smile on his face throughout the gig which is not always the case with him. Opening up with two new songs “Bright Leaves” and “ Before Us” it’s apparent from the off that this thoroughbred band is back in the races ready to lead from the front such is the empathy and warmth that emanates from these guys making music. “Before Us” particularly hits home with Jeff and his wonderful singing voice crying out “I remember when wars would end, but now we just try and kill again”. Some classic tracks follow such as “Handshake Drugs” a crowd singalong, and “Hummingbird” allowing Tweedy to be “Lennonesque” as the band play this Beatles style song magnificently, be it so dreamily rich in melody,

A new and beautiful song from the new album is then showcased “White Wooden Cross”, which is sure to become a fan favourite, a scintillating “Black Bull Nova”, a compelling “California Stars” amongst others. The band are tight with everyone playing their part. It's a real team game the sum of the parts from each band member making, up the whole. If it can get to feel like a comfortable shoe sometimes there is always Glenn Kotche’s drumming in the mix which is so percussive in nature and so abstract in format that familiarity is always put on hold as he can change the songs simply by the nature of his playing. Then of course there is Nels Cline who constantly, even now, seems to surprize Tweedy on stage giving how he stares in wonder at him sometimes. The response from the crowd to his simply mesmerising performance in “Impossible Germany” is one of affection and astonishment as Nels ‘loses’ himself in the superb extended solo.

Other classic Wilco songs follow, a biting “Box Full Of Letters”, a gentle “Jesus, Etc”, and a joy filled, bubbly “Heavy Metal Drummer” before closing with a wild “I’m The Man Who Loves You”. Jeff says very little throughout the gig preferring smiles and hat off bows to the crowd but he seems very pleased with how the band is playing and performing, and indeed the crowds adulation. There are so many minor but selective musical additions involved in making the songs sound so complete especially thanks to Pat and Mikael able to add clever deft instrumental touches. Even the backing vocals have become really tight with Pat and especially John ably lifting Tweedy’s wonderful vocal melodies.

The band come back for three encores “Misunderstood”, “Theologians” and “The Late Greats” and after nearly 130 minutes, they stand at the front of the stage and humbly accept their well-earned applause. The new album seems to have given the band an enticing, forceful input and I personally eagerly await its release. Be sure to check out the Uk shows, the London gig closing this European Tour on September 28th. Chicago’s greatest musical sons indeed!

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