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Wilco Performs 'Star Wars,' Mesmerizes in Cleveland on Latest Tour [Live Review]

by William Hoffman   Sep 18, 2015 13:46 PM EDT

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The only thing better than seeing Wilco for the first time is seeing them for the second time. Watching Jeff Tweedy and his bandmates for the first time is a mesmerizing and mind blowing experience.

For a first-timer, seeing "Impossible Germany" Thursday night (Sept. 17) at Cleveland's Masonic Auditorium, may put your body through shock. The live show is just so monumentally different from the recorded material that there's no way to prepare for the first time. For a Wilco veteran, the music can take you where it wants.

But, for a first-timer, the strobe lights and surprise noise rock sections of "Via Chicago" can make you actually feel ill and anxious after the show, of course mixed with wonderment and jubilation for the band, but it's a hard feeling to reconcile in your stomach.

It can be jarring to listen to the loudness of the band too. Not so much in the sense of volume, but the piercing quality of the noisy guitar solos felt particularly violent in the bouncy walls of the old auditorium. It's as if the room needed to warm up to Wilco. What can initially be mistaken for echo seemed to be a sonic quality that resonated in the hall and sat in the air, at times stabbing your eardrums It was actually a relief when they dropped it down to a more manageable acoustic set-up for the final four songs of the encore.

There are still plenty of surprises to be had as a second-time watcher. Wilco's catalog of songs is so massive it's nearly impossible not to be taken off guard by at least one of the song choices.

Anyone who somehow missed Wilco's surprise, free album release of Star Wars got to hear the whole thing last night as they opened the show by blasting through the 40 minute album straight through. The highlight of the album was without a doubt "You Satellite." On the album it's a rather unremarkable piece, turned live though, the song is as big of an auditory soundscape as anything in Wilco's 20-year catalog.

Beyond the full Star Wars experience, Wilco's setlist was heavy on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, playing up fan favorites such as "Jesus Etc." and "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart." But, the balance of a full Wilco experience was there with tracks from SummerteethA Ghost Is Born and the entire band discography making the cut.

The last time Wilco came to Cleveland it was February 22, 2008, according to Tweedy. Hopefully it's not another seven years until they come back, because a the third time has to be better than the second.

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