Saturday evening, feel-good alt-rock took center stage at ACL Fest as Wilco stepped onto the Samsung Galaxy stage for an hour of music that moved through the band’s distinct, sometimes disparate, sounds. The band’s personality, it seems, changes as quickly as Texas weather.
Led by revered frontman Jeff Tweedy, Wilco warmed up a large, eager crowd with opening songs heavy on noise rock, light on the sweet and easy sounds that characterize classic Wilco. The beginning of the set exposed the band’s experimental leanings that have been at the forefront of recent projects. (And, perhaps, summoned a bit of the throwback aesthetic to be expected from this year’s headliners Depeche Mode and The Cure.)
Tweedy and his band hit a true stride halfway through the set by introducing tunes from Wilco’s 2002 breakthrough album, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.
It didn’t take long for Tweedy — dressed in most apropos denim-on-denim and felt roadster hat — to steer the set toward the band’s signature tunes that play well to easygoing festival-goers. “Good to be back,” Tweedy said to the crowd before launching into “Shouldn’t Be Ashamed,” from the band’s freshman release, 1995’s AM.
Soon after, an acoustic guitar and lap steel replaced heavy electronics, providing appropriate accompaniment to “At My Window Sad And Lonely,” from 2009’s Mermaid Avenue, a collection of Woody Guthrie lyrics previously not set to music. “Forget the Flowers” followed, showcasing heartfelt instrumentation and tug-at-your-heartstrings lyrics. In those moments, Wilco gave a proper nod to its precursor (and instigator), Uncle Tupelo, a band that gave true meaning to the modern Americana sound.
Tweedy and his band hit a stride halfway through the set by introducing tunes from Wilco’s 2002 breakthrough album, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. “War on War,” “Heavy Metal Drummer” and “I’m the Man Who Loves You” brought a much-needed mellow sound to a crowd who anticipated (if not expected) to hear the soothing roots of Wilco’s storied past.
With those sounds, Wilco bridged the gap between the set’s experimental openers and stripped-down country styling, showcasing how a rock band that rose from the ashes of Americana has paved its own way in the music industry for nearly two decades.
As the set ended and the sun set on Zilker Park, Tweedy said three simple words to a crowd that would have listened attentively to an encore, should it have happened: “To be continued.”
Wilco continues a stint in Austin with a sold-out show at Stubb’s on Friday, October 11. The band returns to Zilker Park for the second weekend of ACL Fest on Saturday, October 12, playing the Samsung Galaxy stage at 6 pm.