Daily News Correspondent
People showed up in rain boots and slickers to hear Wilco play the Moose's Tooth parking lot last night. They wore gum boots and Wellingtons, fleece and Gortex, hats and gloves.
The rain fell. The band played. The crowd stayed.
A lessor act might have lost its audience to the downpour, but Wilco held firm, dishing out riotous dissonance and seductive moodiness in equal measure. Though reviewers and record labels like to define the band's music—every band's music—Wilco defies catagories.
Roots music? Folk pop rock? Alternative country? After last night's show, it's clear that Wilco doesn't play alternative anything. It plays everything and anything, from whiffs of blues and jazz to pure country and outright rock and roll.
Last night's set began with folk-inspired wistfulness and finished with a flurry of rock-infused barn burners. In between, the band represented all seven albums, from 1995's "A.M." to its latest release, "Sky Blue Sky."
The set included songs like the wily "Via Chicago" from 1999's "Summerteeth" with drummer Glenn Kotche and guitarist Nels Cline wailing in raucous counterpoint to Jeff Tweedy's acoustic drone; and the jangling "Handshake Drugs" from 2004's "A Ghost is Born," which won two Grammy's for best alternative album and best recording package in 2005; and the country fune "Just That Simple" from "A.M." with bassist John Stirratt on guitar and vocals.
Wilco plays varying sets as a matter of course, taking requests online and mixing the old with the new. Their diehard fans in Chicago and the Midwest see them over and over again, yearning for B-side peculiarities and new takes on old tunes. The Anchorage crowd just looked happy to see them at all, even while huddling under umbrellas.
The band seemed to sate its audience by playing over two hours with two encores Saturday night, covering everything from "Misunderstood" from 1996's "Being There"—(When you're back in your old neighborhood//The cigarettes taste so good//But you're so misunderstood//You're so misunderstood)—to new tracks from "Sky Blue Sky," like "Walkin," a country pop song with a jam-band temperament, and "Impossible Germany," a deceptively simple tune with a clever subtext.
The set included several songs from 2002's "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" as well, such as "Jesus, Etc." and "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart," a folk-country heartbreaker that spins off the psychedelic cliff.
The band coalesced despite the rain and dreary sky. Though only Tweedy and Stirratt have been with Wilco from the beginning, the others seem to have integrated seamlessly, with Cline (guitar) and Kotche (drums) searing the sonic meat while Pat Sansone and Mikael Jorgensen (keyboards, guitars, percussion) laying on the garnish.
Their musical fusion heated up despite cool, wet day.
About halfway through, Tweedy said with a sardonic edge, "Hang in there everybody. It's going to clear up any minute."
The bittersweet truth only made them stronger. About 3,500 people bought tickets to the show and most stayed to the end, wet but willing to comply.