For the first 30 minutes of their concert at the INB Performing Arts Center on Thursday, Wilco barely made eye contact with the audience. We might as well have been watching via satellite. This wasn’t an exchange of energy – it was a presentation.
Then, about five songs in, during “Hummingbird,” lead singer Jeff Tweedy ignited, leading the crowd in a high-speed clap-along and then seeping back to the rear and giving the stage to his new secret weapon, world-class guitarist Nels Cline. This was also about the time the mostly full floor at the INB abandoned their seats to stand and watch the show, just before Wilco busted in to “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart.”
And a couple of songs later, Tweedy actually spoke to the audience. He was even playful, although he did seem slightly annoyed by the typically sedate Spokane crowd. It was like he was surprised that listeners were, well, listening – being attentive and well-behaved.
“How to Fight Loneliness” marked one of the set’s first and few sit-down moments. There was an age mix in the house, Tweedy pointed out while failing to pull off a joke that the crowd was too young to remember vinyl. Luckily, Wilco wasn’t catering to any one type of fan. They played songs from their entire body of work, from the more traditional “A.M.” to the dance numbers on “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot,” and the more ambient and experimental tunes on “Being There” and “A Ghost Is Born,” back to the safer songs from the latest “Sky Blue Sky.”
They didn’t play everything, but after upward of 22 songs and a rollicking double encore, they didn’t leave out much either.
One or two fans said they would have liked to hear more from “A Ghost is Born,” but the set wasn’t overloaded with songs from the new LP.
During the encore, perhaps the peak of the night, Wilco invited Seattle opener Fleet Foxes out to join them in a cover of Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released.” It felt like church, as there were eight voices surging in harmony. “These guys deserve an encore,” Tweedy said.
Fleet Foxes did not fail to impress, managing somehow to make the INB feel like an intimate venue. Bits of conversation flowed between the crowd – which seemed largely new to Fleet Foxes – and the stage.
“Who are you?” one voice begged from the seats.
“Who am I? That’s a question I often ask myself,” said Fleet Foxes bandleader Robin Pecknold.
Although their warm and soothing vocal harmonies swept through the INB’s pristine acoustics gloriously, Fleet Foxes didn’t quite steal the show – that feat was reserved for Cline.