Jeff Tweedy was in an especially good mood at the Greek Theater Wednesday night. He bantered easily with the sold out aud, jokingly chastised a fan for holding a lighter aloft during “Jesus, Etc.” and apologized for facing in one direction for most of the evening, and led the crowd in rhythmic hand claps in the middle of “Spiders (Kidsmoke).” But a few times he got lost in the maze of his own thoughts; when that happened, he laughed and turned to his band and begged for them to “help me out here.” Or as he sang in the in evening’s opening tune, “I have no idea how this happens.”
It’s a state of affairs that was mirrored in Wilco’s engaging but musically uncompromising perf. A quick look at the setlist would lead you to believe that Tweedy was interested in showcasing his fine catalog of emotionally unstinting country rock — tunes such as “Hate It Here” and “Side With The Seeds” hitch post-rehab how-can-I-fill-the-time impatience to loping, Dan Penn/Spooner Oldham inspired melodies — but the show ended up as something much different: a master class in the care and abuse of rock guitar.
The songs might start out in pretty straightforward fashion but take a turn to the left two or three verses in. Like “Blue Sky Blue” (Nonesuch), their latest album, the weirdness starts seeping in from the edges and mostly in the form of Nels Cline’s guitar. There’s the light flurries of noise that bookends “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart,” the jagged, Tom Verlaine lightening bolt solos he plays during “Handshake Drugs” and gonzo layers of feedback that cut through “Outtasite (Outta Mind).” Which is not to take away from his more conventional playing on “Too Far Apart” (a chunky, Replacements-styled rocker from the band’s 1995 debut, “A.M.”) and the stretch of triple-lead-guitar work that Cline, Tweedy and super-utility man Pat Sansone added to “Heavy Metal Drummer.”
The last highlighted the musical interplay between the band. Drummer Glenn Kotche, who was soaked with sweat from almost the start of the show, provided the loose yet deep in the pocket rhythms the songs demanded. He was more than just a timekeeper: During the rave-ups that punctuated the latter part of the show, he played off Cline’s playing adding accents and fillips. Longtime bassist John Stirratt made sure the songs kept moving; Sansome and Mike Jorgenson added washes and textures to the midtempo ballads that took up the middle of the show.
If the concert had one fault, it was a slight monotony of tone of tempo that hit around halfway through the night . But when you’re in as musically satisfying a place as Tweedy and Wilco are right now, you don’t mind it.