Sunday, May 8, 2011 , Updated 10:26 a.m., May 9, 2011
Concert review: Wilco and Smith Westerns at UNT Main Auditorium (May 7)
Frontman Jeff Tweedy insisted on a pit at the soldout show, knocking away any formality and bringing a true rock show to life.
This was not the usual venue for Wilco, the nationally acclaimed rock group who regularly sells out tours. The 1,500-seat University of North Texas auditorium was filled to capacity, bringing the Texas heat inside.
The smell of books and memories of college assemblies came flooding in as soon as the doors opened, bringing some non-students in attendance back to their college days. The show had sold out months before, and the static energy grew thick as opener, Smith Westerns, started their set.
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The small-time chillwave group from Chicago fit the bill comfortably, incorporating their quiet yet effective guitar-driven music into the show. Smith Westerns are mainly played on satellite radio, dominating the indie channel, Sirius XMU. The band members have a '70s style look, bringing Dazed and Confused to life with their laid-back style. Their current single, “All Die Young,” came early in the show, helping to usher in the entering crowds. One of their strongest points is how they differentiate their chillwave style from the masses by making the guitar "whine" with a reverberating pedal effect.
Excitement and anticipation were at the pinnacle as Jeff Tweedy and his band trotted onstage. The 17-year-old group has built a solid following of die-hard fans, many who can quote any song from their eight albums at any moment. “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” stirring up the crowd, which would continue through the entire set. Rock star guitarist Nels Cline owned the stage with vicious shredding. The enamored crowd applauded his solo during “Handshake Drugs.”
After a few songs, Tweedy joked about the unnecessary metal barricades lining the stage. As the set went on, he questioned them more and more, and finally, the police allowed fans to stand against the metal obstacles. In response to the barricades, Tweedy said, “What, are we going to get arrested for initiating fun?”
When the band played “Jesus Etc.,” one of Wilco’s biggest singles, it was a hug-your-girlfriend moment for many, bringing the small crowd even closer together.
When the encore drew near, Wilco's set still felt unfinished because of their enormous catalog. But Wilco wowed us again, playing five tracks that everyone was waiting on. “Red-Eyed and Blue” picked up the sappy mood with its cheery nature and Tweedy’s whistling. They closed the evening with “Heavy Metal Drummer,” including an extensive guitar battle with Cline and Pat Sansone, leaving the audience to decide the winner. Of course, veteran Cline had it in the bag.
“You and I,” one of Wilco's biggest songs, was one of the forgotten tracks. But crowd gossip taught us that the band rotates big singles through set lists and tours, giving a customized show for each audience.
If anyone in attendance thought Wilco was just another rock band before Saturday night, this show was enough to change minds. We've heard that Wilco, along with their opener the Smith Westerns, will be at Austin City Limits in September. We'll let you know if that is confirmed.
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