On the scene: Wilco goes electric rock, but keep acoustic roots at Hollywood Bowl

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Image Credit: Douglas Mason/Getty Images

For a band that built their reputation as alt-country pioneers, Wilco’s show at the Hollywood Bowl Sunday night was a bit harder rock than one might expect, with a set that varied at times (and sometimes even within songs) between electric jams and warm ditties. The show was the band’s fourth appearance in Southern California in 2012 alone, but their last before embarking on a European tour.

The Chicago natives, helmed by lead singer Jeff Tweedy, started off the night with familiar favorites, including “War on War” and “I am Trying to Break Your Heart” from their fourth (and most acclaimed) 2002 album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. At the end of “Heart”, the song took an electric, angrier tone than it does on the album, screeching to a final best-breakup-song-ever halt. But the jamming really got going with their take on “Impossible Germany”, off 2007’s Sky Blue Sky. Lead guitarist Nels Cline (who first recorded with the band on that album) played some serious chords for several minutes, breaking guitar strings and joining together with Tweedy and Patrick Sansone.

Tweedy was subdued but friendly in addressing the pot-laced crowd gathered on a warm early fall night in Los Angeles. Tweedy payed homage to the Bowl, which just a few weeks ago hosted its famous annual “Sound of Music singalong,” inviting the crowd to join in on “Jesus, etc.” “It’s singalong to the sound of Wilco – it’s like the Sound of Music, except noisier,” Tweedy quipped.

The title track for the album they are on tour behind, “Whole Love”,  took on a soulful feel with Mikael Jorgensen on the piano. While overall the concert felt a bit schizophrenic moving between genres constantly, Wilco was able to show off their versatility and mix things up in a way that really got the crowd going. The evening rounded out when they returned to their roots with an encore that included a spirited, heartfelt, and totally appropriate for a nostalgic L.A. crowd rendition of fan favorite “California Stars”. Responding to even more applause than perhaps anticipated, the band returned for an extra unexpected second encore, treating the crowd to an oldie — 1997′s “Outtasite (Outta Mind)” from their album Being There.

Ethereal harpist and songstress Joanna Newsom opened the show.

Setlist:
Dawned on Me
War on War
I Might
Sunken Treasure
Spiders
Impossible Germany
Born Alone
Break Your Heart
Art Of Almost
Misunderstood
Jesus Etc
Handshake Drugs
Black Moon
Whole Love
Box Full of Letters
I’m Always in Love
Hummingbird
A Shot in the Arm

Encore:
Ashes of American Flags
California Stars
Walken
Heavy Metal Drummer
I’m the Man Who Loves You

Encore 2:
Outtasite (Outta Mind)

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