Wilco plays 'Foxtrot' favorites in Vt. show

by Jessica Spradling | 4/28/03 5:00am

Jeff Tweedy is working on his abs; he's working on himself, and it's working. Whether you think "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" was a sellout, a country-boy's "Kid A" or the best album of 2002, Wilco puts on a great show, and there concert in Burlington last Friday was no exception.

My Wilco fandom began rather serendipitously back in the fall of 1997, when I was a mere 13. My high school-aged cousin had a much-older date to a Sheryl Crow concert, and my aunt made her let me tag along as a dead weight disguised as a bonding experience. Needless to say my cousin was not too pleased, and I was promptly ditched in the crowd of over 10,000.

All alone in that massive crowd, I was enraptured by the opening band, Wilco. After they left the stage I meandered about the crowd and picked up a copy of "Being There." I listened to it more or less non-stop for the next few weeks, and thought I was the coolest kid in the eight grade for finding the next big thing.

After they disappointingly did not become famous within the next month, my initial infatuation with Wilco waned, and I put "Being There" on the shelf. Several years later, when I heard their 2002 LP "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot," I barely recognized that country band I had heard so long ago.

While Tweedy's vocals are still as unmistakable as they were when he was singing in Uncle Tupelo, Wilco has lost most of its country influence, and "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" is even more rock and less country than the 1999's poppy "Summer Teeth."

My second experience seeing Wilco was also quite different from the first. Last Friday in Burlington, Wilco played as the headliner to a sold-out crowd of several hundred Wilco fans, instead of several thousand Sheryl Crow fans. Here, they were mostly male, a slightly strange combination of Dartmouth, Middlebury and UVM students mixed in with season-ticket holders for the theater, most of whom were middle-aged Burlington residents in their '50s.

Unfortunately my friend and I did not realize until arriving that having seats Y17 and Y18 actually meant we were sitting on opposite sides of the theater. Her seat ended up being next to a bunch of UVM kids, and mine was right in the middle of the season-ticket-holders' section. As seating regulations were obnoxiously enforced, I opted to stand at the back of the theater, which was definitely the cool place to be -- kind of like the back of the school bus, only without the nausea.

The assigned seating combined with Wilco's mellow stage demeanor gave the concert a bit of a stagnant vibe, but the music was good enough to make up for it. Most of the songs sounded almost identical to their recorded versions, complete with all of the recorded loops.

The band moved through most of the songs from "Foxtrot," and Tweedy started to pick up the crowd's energy at the end of "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart." After playing the "Foxtrot" songs. Wilco played some new music from their latest EP, "More Like The Moon," as well as some old favorites. By the time the band finished up the set with a double encore, I had snuck my way to the barrier, and the crowd was on its feet.

Passing up the chance to see Wilco would certainly have been a crime, because, as Tweedy said himself, "Great rock bands don't last forever."