By Bill Locey
Not surprisingly, Wilco sold out the venerable Arlington Theatre in Santa Barbara Friday night - a venue where the sound is always perfect. Every seat is a good seat, while out in the lobby, an added surprise: You get to expedite your own demise in addition to putting your cardiologist into a higher income bracket thanks to the freedom of the do-it-yourself butter option once you have surrendered the obligatory arm and/or leg for a bag of plain popcorn.
Few went to the art deco theatre for the grub however, even though many evidently came to spend an inordinate amount of cash at the beer garden - but Wilco is worth the drive, an American band on top of their game. The non-elbow bending patrons seated in the theatre were tottering on the verge of antsy after the openers, White Denim finished. They cheered the roadies a couple of times - a sure sign that it's time for the headliners to start.
Wilco started off in slo-mo mode with ``Reservations'' and proceeded to whiz through their vast repertoire of appealing songs. After a tune or two, it was clear that these guys have done this more than a few times as there was never a note out of place and Jeff Tweedy is a superb frontman with that perfect pitch voice, and Nels Cline was the classic sub dude on guitar - either subtle or raging as needed.
Wilco has been around since '94 or after the untimely demise of Uncle Tupelo - only Tweedy and bass player John Sirrratt are survivors of the original line-up. Tweedy seemed to be channeling Miles Davis as he didn't say a word for the first third of the show, finally going all Chatty Kathy and going on at great lengths to practice his Grammy acceptance that - win or lose - was not televised. The band's latest and eighth album, "The Whole Love'' has been out since September and is one of their best, especially, the hook-filled rocker, "Capitol City.''
Once thought to be leading practitioners of Americana, Wilco these days play all sorts of music from rock to country and power pop with plenty of controlled jams - all sort of a mild noodle with Tweedy's cool vocals. That's probably why everyone stood up and most remained so from the fourth song on, and one of their biggies, ``I Am Trying to Break Your Heart.'
White Denim opened the festivities at 8 o'clock and did the jam band thing - one song, one jam, one week as the tunes were indistinguishable from one another. One never knows but this time, the elbow benders didn't miss much but it was a short set - 35 minutes maybe - so White Denim was over before anyone could get tired of them.
And after the show down on Haley and Anacapa at Mac's, it's Friday there as well which means they get in a new supply of burritos, so we scooped up four Mac's burritos - good for a Saturday and Sunday breakfast and a good start of a wonderful weekend.
I passed on the 25 George Washingtons for a Wilco T-shirt since I have the face for radio and reinvested the money with Mac's. Oh, and Wilco did not win another Grammy - the Foo Fighters won for Best Rock Album.